Obama spoke out against “Stand Your Ground” while giving an impromptu speech on George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict before the White House press briefing Friday.
“Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it — if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations,” the President said.
“I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case. On the other hand, 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?” Obama continued.
But as a state senator in 2004, the President co-sponsored legislation strengthening Illinois’ “Stand Your Ground” law.
“In no case shall any act involving the use of force justified under this section give rise to any claim or liability brought by or on behalf of any person acting within the definition of “aggressor” set forth in Section 7-4 of those article…” the bill states.
The legislation passed the Democrat-controlled Senate unanimously March 25 — the day then-Sen. Obama signed on as a co-sponsor — and passed the Democrat-controlled House 114-2 in May. Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) signed the legislation into law July 28, 2004.
Though more than 21 states have some form of “Stand Your Ground” on the books, the laws have recently come into question following the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
George Zimmerman, who was acquitted after a not guilty verdict last week, and his lawyers did not invoke “Stand Your Ground” in their defense, but some argue the law was the reason Zimmerman fired his gun, killing Martin.
“And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I’d just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? 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,” Obama said Friday.
In addition to the President, members of Obama’s administration are pushing for “Stand Your Ground” laws to be reexamined, including Attorney General Eric Holder. And Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced Friday the Senate Judiciary Committee panel on civil rights would conduct a hearing on the laws in September.