‘Stand your ground’ bills un­der scru­tiny

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY DANIEL JACK­SON

The fa­tal shoot­ing of 17-year- old Trayvon Martin by a neigh­bor­hood watch vol­un­teer has put the spot­light on Florida’s “stand your ground” law and other so-called “cas­tle” statutes around the coun­try — es­pe­cially in states cur­rently con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.

At least five state leg­is­la­tures are weigh­ing stand-your-ground bills like the Florida law that has been cited as the rea­son Ge­orge Zim­mer­man, the 28year-old vol­un­teer who says he shot the teen in self de­fense, has not been ar­rested.

Mas­sachusetts state Sen. Stephen Brewer, a Demo­crat, told the Worces­ter Tele­gram & Gazette this week that his pro­posed stand-your-ground bill, which has been stalled in the Mas­sachusetts leg­is­la­ture for five years, would pro­tect peo­ple who are de­fend­ing them­selves.

“Peo­ple act­ing in de­fense of an­other shouldn’t have to fear a civil suit. I do be­lieve that peo­ple act­ing to pro­tect other peo­ple ought to be pro­tected,” he told the news­pa­per.

On the other side of the coun­try, an Alaska Demo­crat, state Rep. Max Gru­en­burg, said the in­ci­dent in Florida has him re­think­ing the leg­is­la­tion that is up for a vote in his state.

Cur­rently, 25 states have some form of the stand-your-ground self-de­fense laws on the books. They es­sen­tially say peo­ple don’t have to first re­treat from an as­sailant or at­tacker.

Sup­port­ers of the laws cite cases such as Sarah Mckin­ley, a young Ok­la­homa widow who killed a knife-wield­ing man af­ter he broke into her home.

But op­po­nents say the statutes can un­fairly al­low some­one to claim self-de­fense and get away with mur­der.

Ac­cord­ing to a CNN/ORC poll, 73 per­cent of Amer­i­cans say Mr. Zim­mer­man should be ar­rested, but 55 per­cent agree with the anti-crime laws.

Mr. Gru­en­burg ini­tially sup­ported stand-your-ground leg­is­la­tion when it was in­tro­duced to the Alaskan Leg­is­la­ture in April. He ex­plained that the Alaskan cul­ture is very dif­fer­ent from the East Coast.

But with a final vote on the law com­ing up, he said his con­cerns have grown af­ter hear­ing more about the shoot­ing in Florida.

“I don’t want peo­ple to die be­cause of a vote,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to Mas­sachusetts and Alaska, stand-your-ground laws have been in­tro­duced in Iowa, New York and Ne­braska.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat, said this week that the Jus­tice Depart­ment needs to look into the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of stand-your-ground laws around the coun­try.

“The laws all passed very, very quickly, and I think the states who passed them, if they find the real facts, may de­cide to repeal them,” Mr. Schumer said.

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