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Why I Oppose AK HB 80 (Stand Your Ground)

As regular readers know, I try hard not to talk about state politics. My personal feeling is that as a state employee, I am a member of the Alaska State Government. As a rule, I feel that it is the government’s job to listen to the people and not advocate for a particular course of action on the part of government. Other state employees of good will note that we are also full citizens of Alaska and are entitled to any view we want provided we do not express them on the job or represent our views as those of the state government. I respect that view but still hold to keeping out of the politics of the level of government I work for.

I have to draw a line at proposed laws that I think are unjust. House Bill 80 (Stand Your Ground) is one of those bills. Modeled on the law in Florida now under discussion in relation to the Trayvon Martin case, HB 80 would allow the use of deadly force by anyone who felt threatened “anywhere they had a right to be.” It doesn’t say that your opponent is using deadly force, just that you have to feel threatened.

I acknowledge that facts are not fully in on the Trayvon Martin case. I think we can say that if Mr. Zimmerman had obeyed the instructions of the 911 dispatcher to let Travyon walk away instead of following him, Trayvon would be alive and Mr. Zimmerman wouldn’t be in hiding.

But the problem with “Stand Your Ground” is bigger than Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. In Florida, which has lived with a “Stand Your Ground” law for seven years, they’ve had unintended consequences like:

It has been used in the case of a gang member who shot and killed a 15-year-old and successfully argued self-defense, and in a case last year in which a repo man wasn’t charged after shooting and killing a man trying to stop him from repossessing a car. But in 2007, the courts did question self-defense claims in the case of a homeowner who shot, but did not kill, a man from behind as the man walked away from the house. (Christian Science Monitor, 3/22/2012)

It doesn’t seem right to me to pass a law that may help gang bangers get acquitted. It doesn’t seem right to me to pass a law that will allow armed vigilantes to kill unarmed people, even if a fistfight ensues.

That’s why I used the Alaska Legislature’s Public Opinion Message system to send my city’s delegation a message that I opposed this bill and urged them to vote against it. If you live in Alaska, I hope you will do the same.  The POM system only supports messages of 50 words or less, but I think you can politely get your point across with that amount of words.

It’s also important to understand that Alaska already has generous lethal force self defense laws. The law AS 11.81.335(b) currently says:

            (b)  A person may not use deadly force under this section if the person knows that, with complete personal safety and with complete safety as to others being defended, the person can avoid the necessity of using deadly force by leaving the area of the encounter, except there is no duty to leave the area if the person is
(1)  on premises
(A)  that the person owns or leases;
(B)  where the person resides, temporarily or permanently; or
(C)  as a guest or express or implied agent of the owner, lessor,
or resident;
(2)  a peace officer acting within the scope and authority of the officer’s
employment or a person assisting a peace officer under AS 11.81.380;
(3)  in a building where the person works in the ordinary course of the
person’s employment; [OR]
(4)  protecting a child or a member of the person’s household;

This seems to be all the coverage one could wish for to use a gun in defense of your home, family or coworkers. HB 80 transcends these reasonable limits to make every public place in Alaska a potential free-fire zone. Please don’t let that happen without a struggle. Contact your legislators and ask them in a civil way to vote against HB 80.

References:

Full text of HB 80
http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill_text.asp?hsid=HB0080A&session=27

The Trayvon Martin Killing Explained by Adam Weinstein, Mother Jones
http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/what-happened-trayvon-martin-explained

Jonsson, Patrik. 2012. “Will Trayvon Martin case spur rethinking of Stand Your Ground laws?.” Christian Science Monitor, March 22. N.PAG. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 27, 2012). – Available to Alaskan residents at http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=73740138&site=ehost-live.

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One Response

  1. Although there is not enough information yet on the Martin/Zimmerman case to make a judgement (and it has been hyped for racial reasons), I agree with you that the law doesn’t sound like a good one.

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