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House sends 'stand your ground' bill to governor

by John Moritz | February 24, 2021 at 4:32 p.m.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson is shown in this file photo.

The House voted along mostly partisan lines Wednesday to send a controversial "stand-your-ground" bill to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Hutchinson has not said whether he will sign the legislation, Senate Bill 24, which removes the duty to retreat while in public places from Arkansas' self-defense laws.

The governor could sign the bill, allow it to become law without his signature or veto the bill, which would take a simple majority of both houses to override.

The sponsor of SB24, state Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R- Clarksville, defended the bill Wednesday from attacks labeling it as a "license to kill."

"The truth is we are slightly moving the needle here in Arkansas," Pilkington said.

But opponents of the bill, including Democrats and advocated of gun control, pointed to studies linking similar laws in other states to increases in shooting deaths. They also invoked several high profile cases in which unarmed Black men were killed by shooters who claimed to be acting in self-defense.

"I happen to have a 12-year-old Black son who I'm concerned about if this bill passes," said state Rep. Monte Hodges, D-Osceola.

Following a failed attempt to pass stand-your-ground legislation in 2019, the drafters of SB24 worked with the state's prosecutors to include language easing some of their concerns. As a result the Prosecuting Attorneys Association, which opposed the earlier effort, was neutral on SB24.

Hutchinson also publicly questioned the need for stand-your-ground legislation in 2019, saying he felt the state's current self defense laws were sufficient.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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