Yesterday, the Alabama House Judiciary Committee voted to advance HB 49, which would expand Alabama’s existing Stand Your Ground law to explicitly allow any person to use deadly force when members of a religious group perceive a physical threat, even in cases where it is clearly not necessary.
The current law establishes that a person may use deadly physical force to defend themselves or others from life-threatening physical force. But this bill effectively authorizes any person to use deadly force to intervene when members of a religious group perceive a physical threat, even in situations that are clearly not life-threatening. The use of deadly force in these situations would be justified under law and immune from criminal prosecution and civil action.
Though the bill purports to be about protecting religious institutions, it defines a church as a congregation rather than a physical building. Thus it applies to any member of a religious group at any time, even when they are not actually on church property, opening the door for the bill to be exploited.
Alabama’s current Stand Your Ground law is already one of the most expansive in the country. Stand Your Ground laws are associated with clear increases in homicides and encourage violence, often among those with violent backgrounds. In Florida, nearly 60 percent of people who claimed stand your ground defenses had been arrested before. A staggering 30 people nationwide are killed each month as a result of Stand Your Ground laws.
Stand Your Ground also has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Research shows that when white shooters kill black victims, the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable 11 times more frequently than when the shooter is black and the victim is white.
This unnecessary bill would only further embolden people to shoot first and ask questions later and could be exploited by violent criminals as an opportunity to use lethal force with no consequence. If you’d like to learn more about how HB 49 would put public safety at risk, please don’t hesitate to reach out.