In a hearing today in the Missouri Senate Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee, Moms Demand Action volunteers were joined by public safety advocates, law enforcement and faith leaders in providing testimony against SB 666, legislation that would put children, families, and communities at risk by expanding Missouri’s already-dangerous “Stand Your Ground” law. The Missouri Sheriffs Association, the Fraternal Order of Police in Missouri, the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, the President of the Missouri NAACP, the Missouri Prosecuting Attorneys, Missouri Faith Voices, and several others all testified against the legislation during the hearing.
Stand Your Ground or “shoot first” laws, threaten public safety and disproportionately impact Black people and people of color. These laws upend self-defense laws, which already allow someone to use deadly force when they are in danger and have no other choice. Instead, these “shoot first” laws encourage unnecessary and avoidable violence, allowing a person to seek out a dangerous situation, shoot and kill another person in public even when they can safely walk away, and then claim self-defense. Missouri already has one of the most expansive and dangerous Stand Your Ground laws in the country. SB 666 would make it more likely that shooters avoid justice by expanding Stand Your Ground and that victims and their families are discouraged from seeking compensation for the harm caused.
Mark McCloskey, part of the white couple that pointed loaded firearms at peaceful protesters demonstrating for racial justice in St. Louis, also testified as one of the very few in support of the bill at today’s hearing. If Stand Your Ground is expanded in Missouri, illegal and violent actions like those taken by Mark McCloskey and his wife could become more commonplace and there’s very little that law enforcement could do to hold those actions accountable.
What to know about SB 666:
- Under current law, when a person uses force to protect themselves or another person, they have the burden of introducing that defense. If SB 666 passes, the force used against another would be presumed to be reasonable and justified — meaning the person who used such force would no longer be required to raise the defense.
- These critical changes provide shooters with automatic criminal and civil immunity — denying grieving families justice.
- SB 666 would prevent law enforcement from having the ability to arrest, detain or even charge a suspect ahead of an investigation.
- If SB 666 passes, even in circumstances where someone is charged and prosecuted for using force, they can go free after a pretrial immunity hearing — weakening our criminal system’s burden of proof and denying justice by eliminating jury participation. Judges, rather than juries, would determine if the person acted lawfully.
Stand Your Ground laws are associated with increases in homicide rates resulting in more than 150 additional gun deaths each month. Justifiable homicide rates increased by 55 percent in states that enacted Stand Your Ground, while these rates increased by 20 percent in states that did not have such laws. In states with Stand Your Ground laws, homicides in which white shooters kill Black victims are deemed justifiable five times more frequently than when the situation is reversed.
Learn more about Stand Your Ground policies here.