The bill removes restrictions in the areas of self-defense and carrying concealed weapons penalties.
It seeks to increase protections for those who use a firearm in self-defense by (a) introducing a “Stand Your Ground” provision that expands the locations at which a person has no duty to retreat before using force from just one’s residence and vehicle to any place a person is lawfully present, and (b) shifting the burden of disproving a self-defense assertion from the defense to the prosecution.
The bill also modifies the Concealed Handgun Licensing Law by eliminating a licensee’s duty to keep the their hand in plain sight if impracticable, reducing the penalties for illegally carrying a concealed firearm or improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle, and eliminating the requirement of posting warning signs regarding the possession of weapons on specified premises.
LCS Legislation Status
Our Take on This Bill
Until 2005, most states required an individual facing a threat to retreat before using deadly force. Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws eliminate that requirement and protect private individuals who use lethal force from facing legal consequences.
The SYG provision of HB 228 raises significant civil liberties concerns. The most serious deprivation of liberty that a person can inflict is killing another individual. This SYG provision presumes that a person, when faced with imminent death or great bodily harm, is justified in using defensive force in any place they are lawfully present. Current law only provides this presumption when a person uses lethal force in their residence or vehicle. By increasing the circumstances in which a private individual may use lethal force without fear of legal consequences, SYG laws increase the number of people who are killed without due process of law. This relationship has been confirmed by law enforcement statistics in SYG states. For example, prior to the passage of Florida’s SYG law, an average of 12 killings by private persons per year were deemed “justifiable.” Since its passage, the average jumped to 36 justifiable killings per year. Nationwide, there has been a 25 percent increase in justifiable killings since 2005, which is linked to states’ weak gun laws and SYG laws.
The SYG provision of this bill also raises concerns of racial justice. While racial disparities exist in the criminal justice system, research shows that SYG laws only make these disparities worse. A 2013 analysis conducted by the Urban Institute found that juries are more likely to find that a killing is justified when the shooter is white and the victim is black. In non-SYG states, 29 percent of white shooter and black victim homicides are declared justified, but in SYG states, 36 percent are declared justified. In contrast, when the victim is white and the shooter is not, the shooter is more likely to face legal consequences. Less than 3 percent of black shooter and white victim homicides are declared justified.
The ACLU opposes SYG laws because they raise serious civil liberties and racial justice issues. Since Americans already have the right to defend themselves in situations where they face imminent harm and safe retreat is not an option, SYG laws have nothing to do with legitimate self-defense, but rather invite vigilantes to use deadly and unnecessary force.
Introduced in the House on 5/16/2017
Referred to the Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee on 5/23/17
Received a Committee hearing on 6/20/17
Federalism and Interstate Relations (H)