Lawmakers in Little Rock overwhelmingly approved a measure removing the duty to retreat in the face of life-threatening danger on Wednesday, and now the bill heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk, where its prospects are less certain. SB 24 is similar to Stand Your Ground laws that are already on the books in more than 30 states across the country that make it clear law-abiding gun owners do not have to present their back as a target when their life is being threatened. Instead, they can meet force with force.
While critics of the bill claimed that it will lead to a “Wild West” mentality, the actual language of the legislation specifies the circumstances under which the new law would apply.
(b) A person is not required to retreat before using deadly physical force if the person:
(1) Is lawfully present at the location where deadly physical force is used;
(2) Has a reasonable belief that the person against whom the deadly physical force is used is imminently threatening to cause death or serious physical injury to the person or another person;
(3) Except as provided under § 5-2-606(b)(2)(B), is not the initial aggressor and has not provoked the person against whom the deadly physical force is used;
(4) Is not committing a felony offense of possession of a firearm by certain persons, § 5-73-103, with the firearm used to employ the deadly physical force, unless the person is in or at the person’s dwelling or in the curtilage surrounding the person’s dwelling;
(5) Is not engaged in criminal activity that gives rise to the need for the use of deadly physical force at the time the deadly physical force is used; and
(6) Is not engaged in any activity in furtherance of a criminal 26 gang, organization, or enterprise as defined in § 5-74-103.
The bill sailed through the House of Representatives on a 72-23 vote, but as local news station KATV reports, it’s still an open question as to whether or not Gov. Hutchinson will sign the legislation.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson now has five days, excluding Sunday, to sign the bill. He has not said if he supports the bill or not. But in 2019, he said the state’s current self-defense law is “strong” and that he was hesitant to change it.
The Arkansas chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action called on Hutchinson Wednesday afternoon to veto the bill.
“Arkansans from all walks of life agree: ‘Stand Your Ground’ will only add confusion to our self-defense laws and increase gun violence in our state,” Amy Gillespie, a volunteer with the Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action, said. “Governor Hutchinson should veto this deadly bill.”
Wow, imagine that. A gun control activist opposed to a pro-self defense measure. Who would have ever expected such a thing?
Despite the opposition from Moms Demand Action, the fact is that various Stand Your Ground laws are on the books in 36 states, and no state has ever repealed the law once it’s been put in place. If Stand Your Ground were truly as awful as gun control activists maintain, you’d think at least one state would have done an about-face and passed a measure repealing the provision. That simply hasn’t happened, because the law works.
Gillespie says that Stand Your Ground will increase “gun violence” in Arkansas, but that hasn’t been the case in the two states that have had the law in place for the longest period of time. Utah approved its Stand Your Ground law back in 1994, and since then the state’s violent crime rate fell from 304 per 100,000 to 235 per 100k. Utah’s homicide rate was 2.9 per 100,000 in 1994, compared to 2.2 in 2019 (the last year for which data is available).
Florida passed its own Stand Your Ground law in 2005, and since then the violent crime rate has declined from 708 per 100k to 378/100k, though the state’s homicide rate has been fairly steady; 5.0 in 2005 to 5.2 in 2019.
There’s simply no real argument against Stand Your Ground unless you’re just opposed to the right of self-defense in the first place, but Arkansas gun owners should be contacting the governor’s office now and urging him to sign SB 24 into law and ensure that Arkansans can protect themselves without having to make a split-second decision on whether they’re legally required to try and retreat or if they can defend themselves from their attacker.