SC Bill Would Repeal ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Members of the Legislative Black Caucus said Thursday South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law is wrong and should be repealed.
The government should not tell people to confront force with force, rather than just walk away, said its chairman, Rep. Harold Mitchell.
“We were taught in Sunday School to retreat,” said Mitchell, D-Spartanburg. “We’re taking back ‘stand your ground’ and protecting the citizens of this state.”
His bill would delete from state law residents’ right to use deadly force to defend themselves against an attacker wherever they are, as long as they have a right to be there. That language was added in June 2006 as part of a law dubbed the “Protection of Persons and Property Act” that sailed through the Legislature with little attention, receiving unanimous approval in the House. The Senate passed it on a voice vote.
Mitchell’s bill would limit the ability to use deadly force against someone illegally and forcibly entering a home, business or occupied vehicle.
“We are here to put the castle back in the castle doctrine. We are not opposed to people protecting themselves and their property. What we are opposed to is the misuse and abuse of the castle doctrine,” said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg. We are “very, very tired of seeing black and brown parents crying and praying over their dead sons.”
She is among 16 other caucus members who have signed on to Mitchell’s bill, which he introduced last week. They argue the law provides an excuse for violence, rather than preventing it.
Those disagreeing include fellow caucus member and House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, an attorney who has successfully argued that defense for clients.
Rutherford, D-Columbia, said people instinctively believe they can defend themselves, and the law guarantees that. He believes the law is working, saying he’s yet to see a criminal set free by using that defense.
“Stand your ground” laws have gotten a lot of attention since the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., but Rutherford points out it was not directly used in George Zimmerman’s self-defense case. Zimmerman was acquitted last year in the shooting death of the unarmed teenager. While not directly mentioned in the trial, Florida’s “stand your ground” law was included in the jury instructions and sparked protests across the country.
Rutherford said the law is not the problem.
“What needs to be repealed is racism and bigotry,” he said.
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