The National Rifle Association has been silent since a jury acquitted George Zimmerman Saturday in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. But it didn’t take long for the gun lobbying group to weigh in once Attorney General Eric Holder blasted the notorious NRA-backed Stand Your Ground laws that gained national attention in the aftermath of Martin’s death.
In an address to the NAACP national convention Tuesday, Holder criticized state Stand Your Ground laws for causing more violence than they prevent, and potentially empowering individuals to become vigilantes. “By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety,” he said. In response, NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox elevated the controversial state provision to a “human right,” calling Holder’s opposition “unconscionable.”
The attorney general fails to understand that self-defense is not a concept, it’s a fundamental human right. To send a message that legitimate self-defense is to blame is unconscionable, and demonstrates once again that this administration will exploit tragedies to push their political agenda.
The NRA’s opposition to Holder’s statement is unsurprising. In partnership with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the NRA was behind the drafting and dissemination of these laws, ushered through legislatures in at least 22 states over the course of just a few years.
But even if one accepts the libertarian contention that some form of self-defense is a human right, Stand Your Ground laws clearly go above and beyond a minimal self-defense guarantee, by authorizing not just the use of force, but the use of deadly force, without any duty to first attempt to retreat or mitigate the situation. These provisions also authorize that use of force when one fears death, as well as severe bodily harm or even a forcible felony.
Cox’s statement reflects the NRA’s continuing indifference to the deaths caused by robust deadly force laws. Last April, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre responded to outcry over the death of Trayvon Martin by blaming the media for “manufacturing controversy for ratings” in covering the tragedy.