Today's Paper Search In the news Latest Traffic #Gazette200 Restaurant Transitions Digital replica FAQ Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles + Games Archive
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
story.lead_photo.caption Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, is shown in this 2014 file photo.

Legislation that would eliminate the "duty to retreat" from Arkansas' self-defense laws was narrowly voted down in a Senate committee meeting Wednesday evening, after hours of testimony against the measure from gun-control groups, law enforcement, prosecutors and civil-rights advocates.

Efforts to pass similar legislation -- known as "stand your ground laws" -- date back at least a decade in Arkansas. All have failed under both Democratic and Republican legislatures.

Debate over Senate Bill 484, which stretched into the early evening, reached a crescendo as Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, raised her voice in a plea against a successful attempt by other members of the Judiciary Committee to limit debate.

"My son doesn't walk the same path as yours do, so this debate deserves more time," said Flowers, the only black member of the eight-member committee. "When you bring crap like this up, it offends me."

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

"Senator, you need to stop," warned the committee chairman, Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale.

"No the hell I don't. What are you going to do, shoot me?" Flowers responded.

After walking out of the committee room to smoke a cigarette with a colleague, Flowers returned to hear members of the Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police and the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association voice their opposition to the bill. Clark later said no action would be taken against Flowers.

The GOP-controlled committee voted 4-3 against the bill, with all three Democrats and one Republican, Sen. John Cooper of Jonesboro, joining the opposition.

SB484's sponsor, Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, said afterward that Cooper "made a bad vote." An attempt to expunge the vote failed. Ballinger said he would attempt to revive the bill later in the session.

Neither Gov. Asa Hutchinson nor Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, both Republicans, have publicly endorsed or opposed the bill. A spokesman for Rutledge said in an email Thursday that the attorney general was "monitoring" the bill and working to ensure its language is "unambiguous." The governor's spokesman said Hutchinson would continue to meet with law enforcement over the bill.

In committee, Flowers' charged testimony clashed with that of Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, who was the only noncommittee member to speak for the bill.

Garner disclosed that he had once been shot during a mugging one night while out with a group of friends. The senator, who said he had attempted to reach for the gun while scuffling with the shooter, questioned whether he could have been prosecuted had he been successful in grabbing the gun and killing his attacker.

[FULL VIDEO: Watch complete discussion of Senate Bill 484]

Immediately after giving his testimony, Garner got up to leave without taking any questions. In their later comments, three state prosecutors used the example of Garner's story to say that he would have been adequately protected under the current law.

"In our opinion, the law is not broken and we do not need to change it," said Bob McMahon, the state prosecutor coordinator.

Arkansas is one of only three states in the South where the laws still require some form of a duty to retreat before using deadly force, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The other states are Maryland and Virginia.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Alan Clark waits for the start of the committee’s session Wednesday that included a sharp exchange between Clark and Sen. Stephanie Flowers.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Alan Clark waits for the start of the committee’s session Wednesday that included a sharp exchange between Clark and Sen. Stephanie Flowers.

Arkansas Code Annotated 5-2-606 says that a person can use deadly force if he is "unable to retreat with complete safety."

While debating the bill, Flowers and a representative from the gun-control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America each said the bill would have a disproportionate impact on black Arkansans. They, along with Sen. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, brought up the case of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was shot and killed in Florida in 2012 by a man who was later acquitted after claiming self-defense. (According to The Washington Post, Florida's stand-your-ground law was not specifically raised by the defense.)

Flowers said that the Trayvon Martin case, as well as an event in which she said a group of men demonstrated while openly carrying weapons outside her law office in downtown Pine Bluff -- a majority-black city -- left her feeling "threatened." Flowers said she also felt threatened by Garner, who she believed had been carrying a concealed handgun around the Capitol.

Garner later told a reporter he was not carrying a concealed weapon at the Capitol on Wednesday. Garner said he has an enhanced concealed-carry permit, which would permit him to carry a handgun in the Capitol, adding that he "exercises that right when necessary."

A Section on 03/07/2019

Gallery: Arkansas General Assembly Day 52

Video courtesy Arkansas Senate live stream

Print Headline: VIDEO: Arkansas Senator walks out during debate over amending state self-defense laws; panel rejects bill

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

You must be signed in to post comments

Comments

  • pravda
    March 7, 2019 at 8:19 a.m.

    of course stupid FOGBOY claims it is a license to kill, because he is a leftist baby killer,, duty to retreat rules result in a victim being attacked, defending himself-rightly, then being made the criminal because the thugs got what was coming to him,,,,STAND your ground, we don't have to retreat from imminent threats ,,,,if you don't want to win stupid prizes, don't play stupid games,,,FALSE OUTRAGE FROM THE BABY KILLERS,,,,i would imagine this race -baiter Flowers supports abortion 100% --quit wasting our tax paid money on these boutique laws- * remove the star, duty to retreat laws,, these don't do one damned thing to help the epolple of Arkansas ,,,these pet projects need to be outlawed,,===lower our taxes and then get out of the way

  • HerrValkyrie
    March 7, 2019 at 8:20 a.m.

    Totally agree with Titleist10. The Bill did not say “Stand your ground against Black people only,” Everything has to be about “race”.

  • pravda
    March 7, 2019 at 8:29 a.m.

    WOW, THE VIDEO OF THIS BLACK "WOMAN" FLOWERS IS VERY TROUBLING,,PRETTY SURE SHE THREATENED TO KILL INDISCRIMINATELY IF SHE FELT" THREATENED" --YOU ONLYUSE YOUR WEAPON IN LIFE THREATENING SITUATIONS ,, TO SAVE YOUR LIFE FROM IMMINENT THREATS ,, BET SHE IS 100% FOR ABORTION

  • hah406
    March 7, 2019 at 8:31 a.m.

    JJ, the duty to retreat has always been the law in Arkansas. You and your side are the ones trying to create a new "boutique law" by implementing a stand your ground statute. I don't have a problem with stand your ground in general, but I doubt there is anyone in the legislature capable of writing a law that is plain and lacking in ambiguity enough to pass constitutional muster.

  • abb
    March 7, 2019 at 8:48 a.m.

    The law is flawed "Duty to retreat"...…."with complete safety" is arcane and subjective. Just strike the language and you still have a good lawful deadly physical force statue. It is NOT a true "stand your ground" law....that would be separate (and needed). We also need a "castle doctrine" in which the word curtilage and definition could be removed from the same law and written in as another Chapter 5 (criminal law against persons) statute.

    We need to clean up our poorly written laws. 5-2-606 and 607 are poorly written compared to other state laws. I'm all for striking the language.

  • punk47
    March 7, 2019 at 9:11 a.m.

    Another nut elected by nuts

  • BunnyW
    March 7, 2019 at 9:13 a.m.

    Why does this affect black people more than whites? Lets think about that... why does the fantasy of trevon martin continue? He was a thug, posted on his own facebook pics of guns and money, he loved violence. Trevon did not practice 'duty to retreat'.

  • mrcharles
    March 7, 2019 at 9:23 a.m.

    lets say you are one of the white racists here and a scary young black male asks you for directions to the local synagogue, you feel threatened and pull out your gun, the young man feels threatened that you have a gun, a struggle occurs and you the white man getting your a$$ beat feeling way threatened shoot him cause (1) you getting your butt whipped and (2) you feel threatened, and the prime example of white southern heritage mankind, the t garner says well, and the prosecutors say you are protected contrary to the knowledge, wisdom and belief of t garner... do you say what do them there prosecutors know about arkansas criminal law.

    what if the perpetrator is a cop that has gone crazy wearing a bullet proof vest, can you [ close your eyes here and think] stand your ground and shoot to kill with bullets that will penetrate the vest? Of course your analysis the cop is crazy is like a personal religious experience, just say it and it must be true. There you have it your justifiable killing of a law enforcement officer ... now open your eyes and you are a black man.

  • tweedyboy57
    March 7, 2019 at 9:29 a.m.

    ONCE AGAIN. THE GOP IN ARKANSAS IS WREAKING HAVOC ON ITS LARGER CITIZENRY WHO ARE NOT IN FAVOR OF LAWS LIKE THESE. WHY MUST THEY ALWAYS RUSH TO THE BOTTOM? WE MUST HAVE LAWS AGAINST VIOLENCE IN ALL FORMS AND NOT ENABLE IT.

  • dunk7474
    March 7, 2019 at 9:36 a.m.

    Arkansas is at the bottom in everything else. Why would this be any different?

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT