Monday, April 23, 2012

Lawmakers look to undo 'stand your ground'

Georgia Representative Rashad Taylor raced to undo his state’s version of a self- defense law soon after Trayvon Martin was murdered in Florida.

According to Business Week, the odds are against his success, Taylor said -- even after nationwide public protests over the Martin case and laws adopted in about half the states that expand the justifiable use of lethal force for self defense. Taylor, 31, faces multiple obstacles: He’s a Democrat in a Republican-controlled Legislature that has favored gun rights.

“It’s definitely going to be an uphill battle,” Taylor, elected in 2008 to the state’s House of Representatives, told Business Week. “People feel their right to bear arms is being threatened.”

In the wake of criminal charges in the Martin case, Governor Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican, ordered a panel to review the state’s Stand Your Ground law.

Gun-control advocates have tried without success to persuade lawmakers to pass more restrictive laws after previous shootings, including a 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech that killed 32 and the attempted assassination of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona last year.

“It’s hard to get hopeful for reform, given the inability of gun-control advocates to get laws adopted,” Adam Winkler, a University of California, Los Angeles law professor who wrote a book on the subject, told Business Week. “Lawmakers are practically falling over each other to pass new, less restrictive gun laws.”

Florida lawmakers in 2005 passed a Stand Your Ground law that empowers residents to “meet force with force.” Other states followed.

South Carolina Representative Bakari Sellers, a Democrat who authored a measure that would repeal his state’s law, said he “wouldn’t put any real money” on his chances of its getting approved.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a long-time advocate of gun control, this month in Washington called for Stand Your Ground laws to be repealed, saying they’re a “license to murder.” The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

In Wisconsin, Democratic Representative Tamara Grigsby said efforts to scuttle the state’s Stand Your Ground will hinge on whether Governor Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans hold power after June recall elections. "We’re holding out hope those numbers will change,” she told Business Week. “As long as Republicans run the show, they are going to get even more radical.”

Louisiana Representative Roy Burrell, a Democrat, proposed legislation to forbid the use of deadly force against someone who is running away. It would be impossible to repeal the state’s Stand Your Ground law because Republicans control the Legislature, he said.

“Politically, I don’t think I can get that passed,” he told Business Week. “Sometimes, you can’t eat the elephant all at once. You’ve got to eat it piece by piece.”

In Georgia, where the Legislature has adjourned until January, five Democrats joined with Taylor to back the measure seeking to strike that state’s law.

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