By Brendan Fischer on July 19, 2013

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced Friday that he will hold hearings this fall on the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the NRA in spreading "Stand Your Ground" laws across the country, which the Center for Media and Democracy uncovered last year, after launching ALECexposed.org.

Sen. Durbin's Senate Judiciary subcommittee will hear testimony on the NRA-backed legislation, which has become law in over two dozen states since being adopted as a "model" by ALEC in 2005.

The announcement comes six days after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Florida's Stand Your Ground law was initially cited to protect Zimmerman from arrest, and the jury was instructed to consider Stand Your Ground when deciding his fate, even though the defense did not request a ruling under the law's criminal immunity provisions. The one juror who has spoken publicly said that the state's Stand Your Ground law influenced their decision to acquit. As CMD's Executive Director Lisa Graves has documented, the NRA played a key role in approving those jury instructions, in addition to helping initially draft the Stand Your Ground law and taking it to ALEC to become a "model" for the nation.

Durbin's office also plans to examine the legal definition of self defense, how such laws have affected shooting confrontations and how such laws affect the problem of racial profiling.

Rep. Raul Gutierrez (D-IL) asked House Judiciary Committee Chair Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) to hold similar hearings in the House, but he has declined to comment. The Congressional Black Caucus has also announced plans to examine Stand Your Ground laws.

Also on Friday, President Obama discussed some of his concerns about the law and the Trayvon Martin tragedy:

[I]f we're sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there's a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we'd like to see?

And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these "stand your ground" laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?

And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.

Yesterday, CMD joined an array of organizations and citizens concerned about these laws at a rally in front of ALEC's new headquarters outside of Washington, DC. ALEC has tried to distance itself from the proliferation of Stand Your Ground laws by telling the press that it has stopped endorsing gun bills. However, as noted in a letter signed yesterday by CMD, the NAACP, Color of Change and 37 other civil rights, labor, and watchdog organizations, ALEC has not called for the repeal of Stand Your Ground in Florida or any other state, despite spending more than six years promoting the legislation.

At the event yesterday, ALEC -- whose central feature is helping get the wish lists of corporations and special interest groups into the hands of state legislators -- refused to accept a copy of the letter from these national organizations that represent millions of Americans. Diallo Brooks of People for the American Way offered the letter to an ALEC representative, who refused to accept it. The police officer standing nearby accepted the letter and offered it to ALEC's rep, who refused to even look at it.

ALEC may be disinterested in the views of concerned citizens about its legacy of endorsing Stand Your Ground and pushing it into law in dozens of states, but both the United States Senate and President Obama have now signaled they are interested in the impact of these laws.

Brendan Fischer

Brendan Fischer is CMD's General Counsel. He graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Comments

The Department of Justice needs to investigate ALEC to find some way to dismantle this and other organizations like this which are being funded by big business under the auspices of being non-profits that are slowly destroying and undermining the democratic process in this country.

DOJ

If the DOJ is at all concerned by the fact that the ultra-rich in this country determine many of the policies put forth by our government, then it should by all means launch an investigation into ALEC and it's oganizations. The DOJ should be able to put them away in much the sme way that al capone was put away, seeing that they are not terribly different.

You won't recognize me. My name was Antonio West and I was the 13-month old child who was shot in the face at point blank range by two black teens who were attempting to rob my mother, who was also shot. A Grand Jury of my mommy's peers from Brunswick GA determined the teens who murdered me will not face the death penalty...too bad I was given a death sentence for being innocent and defenseless.

My family made the mistake of being white in a 73% non-white neighborhood, but my murder was not ruled a Hate Crime. Nor did President Obama take so much as a single moment to acknowledge my murder.

I am one of the youngest murder victims in our great Nation's history, but the media doesn't care to cover the story of my tragic demise, President Obama has no children who could possibly look like me - so he doesn't care and the media doesn't care because my story is not interesting enough to bring them ratings so they can sell commercial time slots.

There is not a white equivalent of Al Sharpton because if there was he would be declared racist, so there is no one rushing to Brunswick GA to demand justice for me. There is no White Panther party to put a bounty on the lives of those who murdered me. I have no voice, I have no representation and unlike those who shot me in the face while I sat innocently in my stroller - I no longer have my life.

So while you are seeking justice for Treyvon, please remember to seek justice for me too. Tell your friends about me, tell you families, get tee shirts with my face on them and make the world pay attention, just like you did for Treyvon.

http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/crime/ss/Antonio-Santiago-Murder.htm

"I am one of the youngest murder victims in our great Nation's history, but the media doesn't care to cover the story of my tragic demise...."

This is a very uninformed comment that seeks to distract from the issue at-hand; a problematic piece of legislation called "Stand Your Ground". Having had a number of family members murdered including one of my closest just a few weeks ago(and with many unsolved), I still oppose this law.

Guns in the hands of any idiot that can afford one is the problem. Stand your ground is making the streets a battleground. Is that what we want?