Missouri becomes first state to adopt ‘Stand Your Ground’ law since Trayvon Martin was killed

The Republican legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) to pass the NRA-backed ‘shoot first’ law.

Missouri House of Representatives CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JEFF ROBERSON
Missouri House of Representatives CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JEFF ROBERSON

Republican super-majorities in Missouri’s House of Representatives and Senate brushed aside concerns from gun safety groups, the Catholic Church, and law enforcement groups to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) veto of an NRA-backed gun bill. The legislation not only will allow people to carry concealed weapons without obtaining any permit, but will also make Missouri a so-called “stand your ground” state, allowing people to shoot first if they feel threatened.

The National Rifle Association made this bill its top national priority, flying staffers into Missouri to lobby and mounting an ad campaign in support of the override.

With their votes, the Show-Me State’s legislators became the first to enact a ‘Stand Your Ground’ law since the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012. Zimmerman avoided conviction, thanks in part to Florida’s law. In the wake of that decision, the U.S. attorney general, an American Bar Association task force, and numerous state legislators urged states to rethink such laws, which permit citizens to use deadly force with no duty to retreat.

During the debate on Wednesday, Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who represents Ferguson and is a member of the tiny Democratic minority caucus, warned that in urban areas like her district, this law could be especially dangerous. “What I don’t want to get to is the point where there is a trigger-happy police officer or bad Samaritan like Zimmerman who says, ‘Black boy in the hood. Skittles. Let’s Shoot.’”

Republican Sen. Brian Munzlinger, the bill’s sponsor, argued that the bill simply “allows law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families.”

CREDIT: Center for American Progress
CREDIT: Center for American Progress

This law is the latest in a series of of steps by the GOP-controlled legislature Missouri legislature to roll back all gun restrictions. This push has come with a huge price: a 2014 study found that following the repeal of state laws requiring comprehensive background checks and purchase permits, Missouri’s gun homicide rate increased by more than 15 percent — as the national rate dropped 11 percent. Missouri now has one of the highest gun murder rates in the country — but this could get worse. A 2012 Texas A&M study found that while there is no evidence that “Stand Your Ground” laws deter crime, such laws do result in about 600 more homicides annually, nationwide — about an 8 percent increase.

The NRA’s chief lobbyist hailed the vote as a “great day for freedom in Missouri.”