Nebraska Democrat Cries Racism Over Stand Your Ground Proposal

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Whether or not Nebraska lawmakers will adopt a "Stand Your Ground" law this session is still very much an open question, but the limited debate on the legislation that's taken place to date shows that anti-gunners are going to great lengths to present a false narrative about the measure... and it's backers. 


Sen. Megan Hunt, who was one of the chief opponents of the state's Constitutional Carry law adopted last year, is adamantly opposed to the passage of LB 1269, which she describes as making it "OK to shoot someone dead just because you feel afraid of them." Hunt is coupling that fiction with the similarly false claim that Stand Your Ground laws are racist in their use, if not their intent. 

In his closing remarks in the committee hearing, Senator Hardin, a white business consultant from western Nebraska whose legislative district is 0.72 percent Black, invoked Trayvon Martin as justification for supporting the bill. 

Acknowledging that this is “an emotionally charged issue,” he rationalized that “the fact is that the evidence has demonstrated that [Trayvon Martin] was in fact the aggressor, and he attacked first, and so self-defense applied.” Terrell McKinney, one of two Black senators in our 49-member Legislature, rightfully took issue with this characterization. Senator McKinney, whose district includes much of the predominantly Black community of North Omaha, and borders my own district, countered in the hearing that Martin was not the aggressor but left his home to get some snacks and was followed by a vigilante.

McKinney noted that in states with “stand your ground” laws, when Black people assert the rights of self-defense purported to exist in these laws, they are more likely than white people to be denied. He explained that these laws harm Black people in concurrent ways: They hurt people of color because Blacks are disproportionately targeted by armed citizens, and because affirmative defenses or immunities are more often denied to Black defendants who are charged with crimes.


I have no idea why Hardin would have brought up Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman in his discussion about Stand Your Ground because Zimmerman did not raise a Stand Your Ground argument when he was tried for Martin's death. Zimmerman testified that he shot Martin only after the teen had attacked him, and he was on the ground and being pummelled when he drew his pistol and fired. Stand Your Ground didn't apply in that case, and it was a mistake for Hardin to point to it as a reason for Nebraska to adopt a Stand Your Ground statute of its own. 

As for McKinney's claims that Stand Your Ground would disproportionally harm Black residents, Crime Prevention Research Center's Dr. John Lott debunked that theory more than a decade ago.

Blacks make up 16.6 percent of Florida’s population but account for 31 percent of the defendants invoking the stand your ground defense. Black defendants who invoke this statute are actually acquitted 8 percentage points more frequently than whites who use this very same defense.

Those who conclude the law is racially biased point to data compiled by the Tampa Bay Tribune, which collected 112 cases where people charged with murder relied on Florida’s stand your ground law, from the first cases in 2006 to July 24 of this year. The Tribune’s “shocking” claim: 72 percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white.

But this doesn’t tell the whole story as blacks are overwhelmingly killed by other blacks. Thus, it is also true that blacks claiming self-defense under the stand your ground law are convicted at a lower rate than are whites. About 69 percent of blacks raising the stand your Ground defense were not convicted compared to 62 percent of whites.

If blacks are supposedly being discriminated against because their killers so often are not facing any penalty, it must also follow that they are being discriminated in favor of when blacks who invoke a stand your ground defense are convicted at a lower rate than are whites. Those who interpret the data as evidence of racism are cherry-picking numbers.


Megan Hunt and her Democratic colleagues scaremonger over virtually every bit of pro-2A legislation introduced in the state, including Constitutional Carry, which she predicted would lead to "vigilante" justice. Instead, police in both Omaha and Lincoln recorded fewer homicides and non-fatal shootings last year compared to 2022; the last full year before Constitutional Carry took effect.  

Constitutional Carry didn't lead to Nebraska becoming the Wild West, and passage of Stand Your Ground won't lead to people being empowered to shoot someone just because they feel scared. In fact, the only part of state law that would be changed under LB 1269 is the removal of a duty to retreat if someone's life is threatened. The standard for using deadly force in defense of self or others isn't changed at all. 

LB 1269 hasn't really moved in the unicameral legislature since it was introduced last month, which is exactly what anti-2A lawmakers like Hunt want. It would be a crying shame if the sham arguments raised by Hunt and others actually carry the day at the state capitol this session, but without pushback from Nebraska gun owners that could very well be the outcome for the Stand Your Ground measure this year. 

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