“Stand Your Ground” Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force
October 29, 2013
Chairman Durbin and Members of the Committee,
Moms Demand Action is pleased to submit this statement and applauds your leadership in holding a public hearing on the critical issue of Stand Your Ground laws and what they are doing to our society, our families, and our children.
Background on our organization: Much like Mothers Against Drunk Driving was created to reduce drunk driving, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (www.momsdemandaction.org) was created to demand action from legislators, state and federal; companies; and educational institutions to establish commonsense gun reforms. We are a nonpartisan grassroots movement of American mothers demanding new and stronger solutions to lax gun laws, loopholes and policies that for too long have jeopardized the safety of our children and families.
Our position on gun laws: Moms Demand Action supports the 2nd Amendment. Period. The death of an American child or teen every 3 hours and 15 minutes at the barrel of a gun was never the intent of the 2nd Amendment and is not a necessary consequence of the 2nd Amendment.
Mothers in urban, suburban and rural America are angry that we are losing so many of our loved ones to gun violence. Moms Demand Action is a nonpartisan, grassroots movement demanding a safer society, calling for common sense. We have more than 100,000 members and a chapter in every state in this country.
We are a young, healthy, growing organization. We are educating, motivating, and mobilizing moms and families to take action that will result in stronger laws and policies to save lives. We support these common sense solutions to help address gun violence in the United States:
- Require background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases;
- Ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds;
- Track the sale of large quantities of ammunition, and ban online sales;
- Establish product safety oversight of guns and ammunition, and require childsafe gun technology;
- Support policies at companies and public institutions that promote gun safety;
- Counter the gun industry’s efforts to weaken gun laws at the state level.
Moms Demand Action on Stand your Ground laws: Our organization looks at all policies from the perspective of parents raising families in America. The need to protect our children and loved ones is paramount to all that we do. We understand that conflict in society and in day to day life is basic to the human experience and part of what we prepare our children to deal with in a healthy, productive way. Stand Your Ground laws do not promote healthy conflict resolution. Too often they foster an “attack” response or even worse, vigilante “justice”. And because easy access to guns and concealed carry laws make lethal weapons immediately available to most anyone – including the untrained and irresponsible that attack response becomes deadly.
Some claim that these faulty laws assure innocent people of greater safety. From what we have learned, studies indicate that these laws do NOT make us safer. A recent Texas A&M study analyzed 20 states with Stand Your Ground laws, including Florida, and found that the laws do not deter violent crime. In fact, there is a clear increase in homicides in those states, resulting in up to 700 more shooting deaths nationwide each year. Stand Your Ground laws also disproportionately affect communities of color. According to an Urban Institute study, when white shooters kill black victims, 34 percent of the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable, while only 3 percent of deaths are ruled justifiable when the shooter is black and the victim is white. Far from making us feel safe, these findings and recent cases are cause for alarm, and highlight the fact that human error is allowed to reign under these laws.
Moms Demand Action was formed after the horrific slaughter of 6 and 7 year old children in Connecticut. Many of our charter members were mothers and fathers of similaraged children who felt a painful empathy for those devastated families – an empathy which drives us still. As we have learned more about the dysfunction of our country’s gun laws, we have expanded our membership to thousands of parents of children of all ages.
For parents of teenagers, Stand Your Ground laws add a level of concern which should not be tolerated in modern society. Walking down dark streets, sneak drinking, and hanging out in secluded areas – all are risky behaviors that are fairly common among adolescents. Facing a trip to a detention hall or even the police station are the consequences of most of these actions. Facing a gun should not be.
Stand Your Ground laws permit deadly force under certain circumstances. But it is much easier for the shooter to claim those circumstances existed than for the dead teenager to tell his or her side of the story. For generations, American mothers and fathers have taught their children that this country is exceptional, because we are a nation of laws and justice. Kill first, explain later is not justice.
Moms Demand Action has over 100,000 members and is expanding, because we fear for the safety of our children and are committed to doing everything that we can to protect them. Stand Your Ground laws on top of concealed carry and the gun industry’s feverish endeavor to sell more guns put our children at risk. Children and adults who may simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time are now more likely to die at the hands of the armed and angry. This is unacceptable. Standing, killing and explaining later should not be tolerated in any community.
We call on Congress to address the Stand Your Ground crisis in any way possible and applaud the Subcommittee for initiating that effort today. We also stand committed to turning back the damage the proliferation of these illconceived laws has wrought in every state they exist especially as proponents seek to couple them with more concealed deadly weapons through “reciprocity” action by Congress.
Thank you for your attention and action on this issue. We believe it is possible to bring gun sense to the laws of our country and look forward to working with the Committee to reach our goal.