Political Parties Take Their Sides On “Stand Your Ground” Gun Laws

Published on October 30, 2013

By Kellan Howell and  Jeffrey Anderson – The Washington Times

The passage of a string of state “stand your ground” self-defense laws in  recent years produced a partisan divide on Capitol Hill, with Democrats saying  the laws have led to increased gun violence, often targeting minorities, while  Republicans questioning the need for a hearing on the issue at all.

The laws came into the national spotlight with the February 2012 shooting of  Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by  neighborhood watch volunteer George  Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman was  acquitted of second-degree murder charges earlier this year, although the  state’s Stand Your Ground statute was not directly involved in the verdict.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the Illinois  Democrat who chaired a Senate  Judiciary subcommittee hearing Tuesday on the laws, said the laws encourage  individuals to use violent and sometimes lethal forms of self-defense instead of  exhausting all other peaceful options. When the “stand your ground” defense is  used in prosecutions, the verdicts tend to discriminate against minorities, Mr. Durbin said.

According to Mr. Durbin, 17 percent  of homicides involving white shooters and black victims were justified under  “stand your ground” compared to 1 percent of cases involving black shooters with  white victims.

“These laws allow shooters to walk away in shocking situations,” he said.

But some Republicans on the subcommittee said Congress was overstepping its boundaries by questioning the states’ authority to set  their own gun laws.

“If it is not within Congress‘ jurisdiction  to discuss the laws,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas  Republican, “it raises the question of if there is a higher political agenda  behind this hearing.”

Mr. Cruz said the bigger problem to address  was the Obama administration’s failure to  prosecute real gun violence cases. He declared “indefensible” a 27 percent  decline in gun crime prosecution in the past year, coupled with only 44 criminal  prosecutions of the some 48,000 fugitives or individuals with criminal  convictions who tried to purchase guns.

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