SB656, a bill designed to change Missouri’s self-defense laws – and make Missouri the first state since the Trayvon Martin incident to pass a stand your ground law – was vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon today (June 27). After sailing through the state’s Senate and the House, the bill had been awaiting approval or veto by Nixon since May 13.
It is possible for a gubernatorial veto to be overridden by the state legislature.
Nixon, a Democrat, faced enormous pressure from the Republican-led Missouri legislature to enact the law. The bill has been widely considered “veto-proof”; however, a bill which faces opposition by the Governor after passing through the legislature can be challenged with a veto override in the next legislative session, and still become law in the future.
SB656 would have allowed deadly force to be used by anyone who has permission to occupy private property, such as a house guest, and also make it a misdemeanor, and no longer a felony, for anyone carrying a concealed weapon into a place that has restrictions on concealed carry.
The bill also would have allowed open-carry without a permit, and expanded the state’s self-defense laws to include the words “does not have a duty to retreat from a dwelling, residence, vehicle, private property that is owned or leased, or anywhere else a person has a right to be – the very definition of stand your ground law – making Missouri the first state since Trayvon Martin incident to pass such a law.
After each mass shooting in America, a voice is heard somewhere in the wilderness of the gun control debate preaching the myth that “nothing stops a bad guy but a good guy with a gun.” This worn-out statement has been used in support of stand your ground laws, but it’s unlikely stand your ground laws would stop a mass shooting.
The good guy myth is repeated by the gun lobby – like a sales pitch for a reliable car – almost every time there’s a high-profile murder of innocent people, or a vigilante kills a perp, and it’s simply not true.
In the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, at the Pulse night club in Orlando, we heard it again. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, an NRA supporter, is likely to have said it again by the time you read this.
Stand your ground is dangerous
Some gun owners may argue that engaging a threat is the best solution. In Florida – the birthplace of “stand your ground” laws – it’s highly possible that several patrons or employees of the night club were armed, and reports are that an armed security guard fired back at the gunman during the frenzy. It’s unclear if the club had a system to check for weapons at the entrance.
Chances are, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, like any other mass shooter, probably didn’t bother to make a normal entrance on his hours-long rampage, as he killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. it was only when police fired on him that the shooting ended.
Stand your ground law relieves a person of a duty to retreat. That means there is no obligation to try and escape any danger or call police in the face of a threat. It allows for the use of deadly force to meet deadly force.
But without any warning or firepower to match, who can stand their ground against an AR-15 assault rifle firing 45 rounds a minute – a weapon designed for war – wielded by a crazed gunman intent on carnage?
At it’s deadliest worst, there is also an increased chance during an active shooter situation that any number of innocent people may be hurt or killed by “friendly fire” from an untrained civilian – who happens to be a “good guy with a gun”. There could also be criminal or civil legal repercussions.
Manufacturers of these high-powered weapons of war are facing lawsuits from some families. Families of Sandy Hook victims have filed lawsuits against gun manufacturers they say made a weapon that shouldn’t be sold to civilians. In response to the Orlando shooting, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said “It reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.”
There should be state and federal bans on assault-type weapons designed more for war than for hunting, such as was in effect from 1994 to 2004. It’s estimated that there are millions of these weapons in circulation. Efforts to reinstitute the ban have been underway but encounter resistance from the gun lobby.
It’s up to lawmakers in each state who recklessly feed into NRA rhetoric and NRA money to act now – with urgency – and address the epidemic of gun violence by enacting gun laws for safety that may protect us. Anything less will continue to diminish our pursuit of happiness.
Having a stand your ground law can’t help stop a mass shooting, but sensible gun laws can help. We must hold state lawmakers responsible if they want our votes. We must demand that they take action to make America SAFE again.
Ever wondered what a certain person had said or who said what about stand your ground laws? Some statements against stand your ground laws made in the aftermath of the trial in Trayvon Martin’s death were very controversial, and overshadowed the tragedy itself. Here are a few notable – or infamous – memorable expressions:
“If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?… when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
“It’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods. These laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if no safe retreat is available. But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common-sense, age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely. By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety.”
“The law just allows people to go on the offensive…it doesn’t do what people think it does, and people will get the idea that they can shoot people wherever they want. I just think we went too far.”
“Florida has to fix this problem because Florida created this problem with the kind of law that we placed on the books, so we have to change the law or we are going to see more Trayvon Martins.”
“Stand your ground would do nothing but turn our state into the Wild, Wild West.”
“Whether it’s trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house, you’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.”
“‘Shoot-first’ laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns. Such laws – drafted by gun lobby extremists in Washington – encourage deadly confrontations by enabling people to shoot first and argue ‘justifiable homicide’ later.”
“These laws give anyone with a gun more permissive rules of engagement in America’s communities than our troops have on the battlefield.”
“I decided today that until the Stand Your Ground law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again.”
“The laws are also more permissive than 19th-century law, despite the fact that dueling remained legal until 1859, when most states outlawed it. Unlike Stand Your Ground, both parties in a duel were armed and had an equal chance of success. Duels were also voluntary, whereas a person who is shot under Stand Your Ground has no choice in the matter.”
Since the Trayvon Martin shooting over 500,000 names have been added to online petitions calling for a review, change, or end to stand your ground laws, and over 80% of that number come from a petition started by Martin’s parents.
Although activism against the law has dropped dramatically, public sentiment against stand your ground law appears steady, sometimes refueled by news of homicides involving the possibility of stand your ground laws being invoked.
Popular internet petition sites like Change.org, credoaction, and MoveOn contain most of the requests, which call for change or repeal of stand your ground law or Florida boycotts.
“Change For Trayvon“, a petition on Change.org, calls for the Governors of 21 states to review and amend stand your ground laws. This petition was started in 2012 by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin (parents of Trayvon Martin) and appeared to have had the most signers in February, 2014 – 427,605 – with a goal of 500,000 (In August, 2013, there were 383,844).
In 1992, Yoshihiro “Yoshi” Hattori, 16 years old, an American Field Service international exchange student from Japan, thought that when he came to America he would be welcomed. Instead, he was gunned down from five feet away with a .44 caliber handgun by a Louisiana homeowner, then-31 year-old Rodney Peairs, – who later walked free.
This “stand your ground”-type incident sent the gun-control debate into international overdrive, gaining world wide attention two decades before Trayvon Martin was killed. The shooting was considered justifiable homicide under Louisiana’s 1976 “shoot-the-burglar” law, which allows a person to kill an intruder if he “reasonably believes” the intruder is trying to enter the house and might use violence against the occupants.
Yoshi had been in the United States for several weeks. His American host, 16-year-old Webb Haymaker, and Yoshi (with bandages over his head, hands, and legs, wearing a white tuxedo and black pants to imitate John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”) headed out to a Halloween party October 17, 1992.
Since he had injured his neck jumping into a swimming pool at his house, Yoshi’s neck was in a plaster cast. Neither of them had any makeup on their faces. They approached a home adorned with Halloween decorations which had a house number very similar to the house they were looking for.
They walked to a door in the carport on the side of the house. Then they heard someone bang the door. “Are we at a wrong house?” they wondered, moved back toward the road, and stood there for a while. Meanwhile, inside the house, the homeowners had seen them coming. Bonnie Peairs, told her husband Rodney, “Go get the gun.”
Webb and Yoshi heard the door open and someone appeared.”We are here for a party!” Yoshi explained and started to walk fast to the door through the carport. Seeing Rodney Peairs holding a gun in his hand at the door, Webb cried to Yoshi “No. Come back!”
“Freeze!” warned Peairs, as Yoshi repeated, “We are here for a party!” No sooner had he finished the words than Peairs pulled the trigger. A bullet hit Yoshi’s chest. Bleeding heavily, he died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.
Almost three weeks later, on November 4, 1992, a Louisiana grand jury indicted Peairs for manslaughter. At his arraignment on December 16, he pled not guilty. A trial began on May 17, 1993.
On May 23, the jurors reached a unanimous verdict of not guilty, ruling that Peairs acted in self-defense. In his concluding argument, Peairs’ attorney said, “We have a legal right to open the door holding a gun to anyone when the door bell rings. This is the law of this country.”
On July 13, 1993, Masaichi and Mieko Hattori, Yoshi’s parents, filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. and Mrs. Peairs. Charles Moore, the Hattoris’ attorney, brought up revelations of contradictions in the defendants’ criminal trial testimonies.
The judge denied Peairs’ claim that he felt he was in danger, deciding that his action was against Louisiana law requiring special precaution for use of firearms and that Yoshi was not at fault. The judgment stated that a reasonable person would have asked, “Why do we need a gun? What did you see?” and thus, self-defense immunity was not granted in the civil trial.
On September 15, 1992 the Hattoris won the civil case and were awarded $653,000 as compensation for damages. The civil judgment cleared Bonnie Peairs of responsibility for her role in telling Rodney, “Go get the gun” upon seeing Yoshi. A Japanese documentary film called “Shot Heard Around the World” covers the civil trial in detail.
The Hattoris established The Yoshi Foundation following Yoshi’s death, funded by donations and 10 million yen out of Yoshi’s life insurance and managed by AFS Japan. Each year since 1994 one student from the U.S. experiences Japanese society with the hope that they will get a deeper understanding of a culture where guns are not a necessity.
The student lives with a host family and attends high school in Japan. Every year, Yoshi’s parents meet with the student to tell them about Yoshi’s misfortune, with the hope that small efforts can eventually bring international peace.
[UPDATED May, 2016]
Does your state have a Stand Your Ground law? Some people don’t know whether or not the state they call home has some form of Stand Your Ground law. Some people don’t know what it is. Further, some have even never heard of what’s called a “Castle Doctrine”, or “castle law“. Castle laws have been in place for hundreds of years. Stand Your Ground changes that. More than half of all American states have some variation of these two, distinct laws. Let’s break it down.
It all starts with the castle law. This is based on England’s 17th century doctrine that a man’s home is his castle (in some states, a vehicle is also an extension of the castle). In the castle, or anyplace a person owns or rents that they have a right to be in, under the castle law, the person also has a legal right to defend himself and family against great bodily harm or death, if a person fears an imminent threat – even if by deadly force.
In principle, it gives the defender certain immunities or protection from prosecution under certain circumstances and is considered justifiable homicide, or, justifiable use of force. It is also based on the principle that a person has no duty to retreat from a place he or she has a right to be.
An intruder must be attempting to unlawfully or forcibly enter an occupied residence, business, or vehicle. Some states apply the Castle Doctrine if the occupants reasonably believe the intruder intends to commit a felony such as arson or burglary. The occupant must not have provoked or instigated the intrusion, or provoked/instigated an intruder’s threat or use of deadly force.
In every state, the occupant must have a legal right to be there, must not be fugitives or aiding/abetting other fugitives from the law, and the law can’t be used against a law enforcement officer performing his duty. In some states, the occupant must not be engaged in any unlawful activity during the encroachment, and, in most cases, the castle doctrine gives immunity from civil charges also.
Now, castle laws have been amended to include a “Stand Your Ground” clause, which means one can use deadly force in any place they are legally allowed to be without having a duty to retreat. This can be a home, car, or place of employment as it applies to the Castle Doctrine.
Emphatically, Stand Your Ground specifically simply removes the duty to retreat and in many cases, a requirement that the threat must occur in one’s own space, making it possible for the situation to happen almost anywhere. This is the flash point of the controversy.
The George Zimmerman trial in the shooting of Trayvon Martin raised the specter that Stand Your Ground laws are flawed. However, though the defense didn’t invoke the law, the jury was allowed to hear language from the law, influencing the outcome.
Media outlets have several confusingly different online graphic maps of over 20 states having a Stand Your Ground law or some variation of it. Almost all states have a castle law. With so much conflicting info out there, I thought it best to educate myself on which states actually do have a Stand Your Ground law and try to come up with a more precise calculation, so here it is, without any warranties.
Check to see if your state has a Stand Your Ground law (this list is reviewed & updated periodically), read it, then contact your lawmakers and demand that they review, repeal, and/or abolish any Stand Your Ground laws [Note: some laws may have changed since this article was originally published; updated periodically to reflect any changes in links]: