The state of Arkansas is pretty strong on gun rights in very many ways. However, no state seems to get it perfect. In Arkansas, one of their flaws isn’t really a gun issue, but a self-defense issue.
You see, Arkansas has a “Duty to Retreat” law. In other words, if you’re faced with a life-threatening situation, you’re legally required to look for escape rather than being allowed to just defend yourself. That’s right, you have to waste precious seconds in the face of an attack to determine if you can get away from an attacker before you can actually defend yourself.
And if you think there isn’t and a prosecutor who wasn’t there at the time thinks there was, well…you’re in for a bad time.
Over the last several years, there has been an effort to change the state’s self-defense laws so that Arkansas would become a Stand Your Ground state. Thus far, they’ve been unsuccessful.
Republicans in the Arkansas Legislature introduced a so-called “stand-your-ground” self-defense bill Wednesday, vowing to enact the measure in 2021 after past efforts failed in the face of law enforcement opposition.
The legislation, Senate Bill 24, proposes to eliminate language from the state’s criminal codes requiring a person to retreat, if possible, before using deadly force in self-defense. The bill was introduced by state Sen. Bob Ballinger, R- Berryville, and Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R-Clarksville, and co-sponsored by more than two dozen other GOP lawmakers.
Ballinger and Pilkington were each sponsors of similar legislation in 2019 to eliminate the duty to retreat, but they encountered opposition from gun-control groups, law enforcement and prosecutors.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, while never formally taking a stance for or against the measure in 2019, said at the time he was “hesitant” to change the state’s self-defense laws.
Ultimately, the 2019 effort failed after a single Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee joined with the committee’s three Democrats to vote against the measure, stalling the bill in committee.
In a tweet announcing a return of the legislation Wednesday, Ballinger thanked both the National Rifle Association — a long-time proponent of stand-your-ground laws — and the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association, which opposed the 2019 legislation before switching to a neutral stance after changes to the bill were made.
Now, that doesn’t mean the bill will pass this time around. The best we can do is hope.
Well, that’s the best those of us outside the state might be able to do, anyway. Inside the state, it’s imperative to call your legislators and express your support for this law.
The truth of the matter is that while Stand Your Ground is vilified, it’s vilified by people who either don’t understand it or what to do what they can to make sure no one else understands it. All it does is remove a duty to try and get away from an attack you might not be able to find away to escape from in the first place. It prevents you from being prosecuted for not running away and that’s it. You still have to meet other legal standards such as having a reasonable belief that your life was being threatened.
Yet opponents of such measures ignore that little tidbit.
As such, if you’re in Arkansas, call your legislators and get this passed. If not, the life ruined might, God forbid, be yours.