Arkansas Senate passes 'stand-your-ground' bill

FILE — Sen. Bob Ballinger is shown in this file photo.
FILE — Sen. Bob Ballinger is shown in this file photo.

Controversial legislation to eliminate a person's duty to retreat safely from Arkansas' self-defense laws passed the Arkansas Senate Tuesday by a wide majority.

The so-called "stand-your-ground" bill, Senate Bill 24, passed by a vote of 27 to 7 with the support of most of the chamber's Republicans and one Democrat.

The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Bob Ballinger, R- Ozark, argued that Arkansas should join the majority of other states that have enacted similar legislation, and that Arkansas' current self-defense laws are "ambiguous."

"This is not a license to kill," Ballinger said.

Opponents of the bill argue that is unnecessary, however, because current law already allows the people to kill in self-defense if there is no way for them to retreat from a situation safely. Several senators who spoke against the bill Tuesday also raised concerns that the law would be disproportionately to defend those who kill Black and disabled people.

"The facts show that a person who looks like me has a reason to be concerned," said Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, who is Black.

The vote by the Senate sends the bill to the House, where Ballinger said Tuesday he has the votes to pass the bill.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has yet to say whether he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. His nephew, state Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, was the lone Republican to vote against the bill in Senate.

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