Senate Judiciary Committee to examine state 'stand your ground' laws

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Friday that the Senate Judiciary Committee would hold a hearing in September to examine "stand your ground" laws in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case.

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The "stand your ground" self-defense laws in Florida and two dozen other states allow individuals to defend themselves without requiring them to attempt to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation. Although Zimmerman did not specifically employ a "stand your ground" law defense to combat second-degree murder charges in the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, the trial has brought a renewed scrutiny to the statutes.

"September’s hearing will examine the gun lobby’s and the American Legislative Exchange Council’s influence in creating and promoting these laws; the way in which the laws have changed the legal definition of self-defense; the extent to which the laws have encouraged unnecessary shooting confrontations; and the civil rights implications when racial profiling and 'stand your ground' laws mix, along with other issues," Durbin's office said in a statement.

President Obama, in surprise remarks on the Martin case on Friday, said the laws were worthy of further scrutiny.

"If we're sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there's a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we'd like to see?" the president asked.

Obama said that those weighing in on the laws in light of the Zimmerman trial should consider the possible consequences of what would have happened had the roles been reversed.

"If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?" Obama asked. "And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws."

Attorney General Eric Holder also called for a closer examination of the state statutes during a speech to the NAACP earlier this week. That earned a condemnation from the National Rifle Association, which accused the Obama administration of politicizing the Florida teen's death.

"The attorney general fails to understand that self-defense is not a concept, it's a fundamental human right," NRA Executive Director Chris Cox said in a statement. "To send a message that legitimate self-defense is to blame is unconscionable and demonstrates once again that this administration will exploit tragedies to push their political agenda."

Durbin's office said more details about the planned hearing would be announced in coming weeks.

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