LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP/KARK) - Senate Bill 24, known as the “Stand Your Ground” bill, passed the Senate Tuesday with a 27-7 vote.
But, the vote didn’t come without some intense debate.
“This is not a license to kill,” Sen. Bob Ballinger (R-Ozark), the bill’s sponsor, said. “This does not give you the ability to shoot first and answer questions later.”
The bill ends the duty to retreat if:
- The person using deadly force is lawfully present with reasonable belief they’re being threatened.
- They’re not engaged in criminal or gang activity.
- The person is not a felon.
- Is not the initial aggressor
“I’m voting for this bill so that vulnerable people in the state, especially all of our daughters, our wives, and our spouses, regardless of their color, have an opportunity to defend themselves against aggressors,” Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) said.
However, others in the Senate opposed the bill, saying there was no reason to change the current law.
“Is this the best policy to deal with the behavior of persons that it’s left to the one using the deadly force to form a belief, based on their perception of that person, that they use the deadly force against,” Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D-Pine Bluff) asked.
“I don’t think we ought to make it easier to kill,” Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) added. “I don’t believe that Arkansas needs to have another Trayvon Martin case.”
This comes after the Arkansas Senate panel advanced legislation loosening restrictions on the use of deadly force in self-defense, two years after it failed before the same committee.
The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed the proposal that would remove the state’s duty to retreat before using deadly force in certain circumstances.
According to content partner KARK, Ballinger (R-Ozark) said the duty to retreat aspect was being removed due to prosecutors not taking the issue into account as they look at cases.
It may be well-intentioned, but Ballinger said it was not the job of prosecutors to do that.
“I get that, and the only problem with that is that it’s not really their job. It’s their job to enforce the law, not to make good decisions what good and better policy is under the law,” Ballinger said.
Sen. Flowers (D-Pine Bluff), who opposed a similar bill in the 2019 session, said she was afraid the bill would turn people into “judge, jury and executioner.”
“But you got a gun, and they said the magic words, and so, ‘Pop,’ you’re just going to shoot them,” Flowers said.
The proposal failed before the same committee two years ago but was widely expected to win approval Wednesday, with five of the bill’s sponsors holding seats on the eight-person panel.