After two and a half hours of heated testimony, Sen. Bob Ballinger‘s bill to enact a so-called “stand your ground” law failed in the Senate Judiciary committee this evening.
Ballinger’s bill would expand the circumstances under which a person could use deadly force in defense of self or others, even if there was an option to exit the situation without resorting to violence.
Four voted against the bill: Democrats Greg Leding, Stephanie Flowers, and Will Bond, along with Republican John Cooper.
Ballinger voted for it along with two other Republicans, Gary Stubblefield and Terry Rice. The chair, Republican Sen. Alan Clark, did not vote, presumably because his vote would have been moot (an affirmative majority is needed for passage).
Multiple advocacy groups were present, including Arkansas United and Moms Demand Action, in full force with their trademark red shirts in the audience.
Those testifying against the bill included Anika Whitfield of the Arkansas Poor People’s Campaign; Dale Charles of the Little Rock chapter of the NAACP; a member of Moms Demand Action; four prosecutors; four sheriffs; Syard Evans, the executive director of the Arkansas Support Network, a disability services nonprofit; and Jamie Womack, an attorney whose brother was murdered — the shooter got off due to Louisiana’s Stand Your Ground law.
Among the fireworks during the debate : Flowers, the sole black member of the committee, erupted after other committee members tried to limit debate:
I’ll be as quick as I can, as quick as it takes to kill somebody I guess. You want me to be that quick. … It doesn’t take much to look on the local news every night and see how many black kids, black boys, black men are being killed with these Stand Your Ground defenses that these people raise, and they get off. So I take issue with that. I’m the only person here of color. I am a mother, too. And I have a son. And I care as much for my son as y’all care for y’all’s. But my son doesn’t walk the same path as yours does. So this debate deserves more time.
I’m in Pine Bluff. We have killings regularly down there. … I don’t know where Mr. Ballinger is from. But I can tell you for a long time since I’ve been back here in Arkansas, I have feared for my son’s life. Now he’s 27 and he’s out of Arkansas, and I thank God he is when you’re bringing up crap like this. It offends me. …
I worry about my son. And I worry about other little black boys and girls.
When Clark, the chairman, told her she needed to stop, Flowers asked, “What you gonna do, shoot me?”
“You are not going to silence me!” she shouted in closing.
She later told Ballinger: “You are threatening to me, and to my family.”
You can watch video of the full debate here. The fiery speeches from Flowers come at 5:55 p.m. and 6:28 p.m.
Under current law in Arkansas, a person may not use deadly force in self defense “if the person knows that he or she can avoid the necessity of using deadly physical force” by safely retreating from the situation. This duty to retreat does not apply under current law when a person is at home; under the so-called “castle doctrine,” Arkansas law already allows citizens to, for example, shoot a trespasser in the home who is a violent threat even if they could avoid doing so by retreating.
Ballinger’s bill would expand the “stand your ground” territory beyond the home to any location where the person is “lawfully present.” It explicitly states that a person acting in defense of self or another “is not required to retreat before using deadly physical force” — so long as the lawfully present person is not engaging in criminal activity and did not provoke the other person. The bill eliminates all current provisions that describe retreating to avoid the need for deadly force. It further codifies that such a possibility cannot be considered in making a determination about whether use of deadly force was lawful.