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'Stand your ground' bill delayed in Arkansas House

by John Moritz | February 6, 2019 at 4:30 a.m.

A planned hearing over a "stand your ground" bill was postponed Tuesday morning, after the sponsor said he needed more time so he could amend the bill to address concerns raised by sheriffs.

House Bill 1059, by state Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R-Clarksville, proposes to remove from the state's code books language that prohibits people from using deadly force in situations when they could have otherwise retreated.

At least 25 states have passed similar protections for the use of deadly force, otherwise known as "stand your ground" laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Gun control advocates, however, have opposed the spread of such laws, pointing to studies that link the policy to a rise in gun homicides.

One such group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, was preparing to speak against the bill in committee Tuesday, according to the group's state director, Eve Jorgensen.

Tuesday's meeting of the House Judiciary Committee coincided with what would have been the 24th birthday of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager who was killed in 2012 by a man later acquitted of murder after claiming self-defense. Some members of the Moms Demand group had pointed to the coincidence.

Several sheriffs had expressed concerns over the bill, Pilkington said, and he planned to amend the legislation to remove protections for bystanders who enter situations and use deadly physical force.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

Pilkington also said he has been asked to leave alone "duty to retreat" provisions now in effect, but he doesn't plan to do so.

"I'm really disappointed a lot with some of the associations that waited until the last minute to express their concerns," Pilkington told a reporter Tuesday morning.

Scott Bradley, the executive director of the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association, said the group opposed HB1059 and would likely continue to oppose it even after the bill is amended.

Bradley said he did not think that Pilkington's description of "last-minute" concerns was accurate.

"We believe we have a solid law" on the books, Bradley said. "HB1059 would encourage individuals to take matters into their own hands rather than avoid confrontation, resulting in many of our citizens being hurt or possibly killed."

HB1059 was placed on a list of "deferred" bills in the House Judiciary Committee.

The chairman of that committee, Rep. Carol Dalby, R-Texarkana, told the members Tuesday that she had planned to take up the bill Tuesday morning but learned Monday night that Pilkington intended to amend it.

A Section on 02/06/2019

Print Headline: 'Stand your ground' bill delayed in Arkansas House


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