Bill Before Texas Legislature Would Eliminate The State’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law

CREDIT: AP
CREDIT: AP

With two pending bills that would expand gun rights in Texas, one representative in the state’s House wants to challenge the status quo. Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) just introduced a bill that would repeal Texas’ “Stand Your Ground” law.

Coleman’s unnamed bill, introduced Thursday, aims to revise the provision of a state law on the “Deadly Force in Defense of Person,” which allows people to use deadly force if they perceive a threat to their well-being in their home, car, or place of employment. Under the current law, which went into effect in 2007, people can use deadly force “to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force, or to to prevent the other’s imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.” As long as the actor is not engaged in criminal activity at the time, and did not provoke the encounter, he or she can use deadly force without attempting to retreat from the scene.

H.B. 1627 would limit an actor’s ability to use deadly force by stipulating that such force can only be used when one’s personal land or home is under threat. “Stand Your Ground” would no longer apply to one’s vehicle or place of employment. The bill also removes some of the ambiguity from the current law. In order for a defender to use deadly force, the offender would have to demonstrate that they are going to harm or use harm. H.B. 1627 also emphasizes the use of force when an actor is “unable to safely retreat.”

According to Coleman, the impetus for the bill was the matter of threat perception in previous Stand Your Ground cases. Young men of color are disproportionately viewed as dangerous, so Stand Your Ground laws put a huge target on their backs.

“People don’t really understand what it feels like to be a person of color and be at risk because of the perception that somebody has of you. What the presumption shouldn’t be is that somebody walking down the street is going to harm you,” he told ThinkProgress.

Still, the bill comes at a time when gun rights activists are pushing for more lenient carry laws throughout the state. Two bills that passed in the Senate State Affairs Committee last week would permit guns on college and university campuses, and allow licensed gun owners to openly carry their guns in holsters. With gun rights at the forefront of Texas’ political discourse, it seems as though Coleman is fighting an uphill battle.

However, the representative isn’t thinking in the short-term, and believes his bill can generate change in the future.

“I think sometimes people believe that bills are passed in the first or second session that they’re filed. I’ve filed bills that I call 4-session bills,” he explained. “We have to stop thinking about things based on whether they pass or not, because the goal may not be to pass. The goal may be to organize around that particular legislation until it can pass. This is something that we have to keep educating people about. We have to start sometime.”