A wide-ranging gun bill that includes a controversial “stand your ground” law won Missouri Senate approval Friday afternoon, the last true hurdle before going to the governor.
The bill needs one more vote in the House, which has approved similar legislation numerous times. The legislature adjourns at 6 p.m.
A “stand your ground” law allows a person to use deadly force in self-defense without the duty to retreat when faced with a perceived threat. The bill also contains a provision making it legal for people to carry concealed weapons without a permit anyplace they can currently carry guns openly and allowing a house guest to use deadly force to defend themselves in someone else’s home.
Democrats vehemently opposed the legislation. Sen. Jason Holsman, a Kansas City Democrat, questioned the need for the bill, saying his Second Amendment rights are “doing just fine.” Kansas City sees 100 murders a year, he said, and gun violence is the major cause.
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“Isn’t it our job to make our citizens safe?” Holsman said.
Sen. Jill Schupp, a St. Louis County Democrat, called the bill the “shoot first, ask questions later” law.
But Sen. Brian Munzlinger, a Lewis County Republican sponsoring the measure, said the bill is about allowing people to protect themselves and their families when they are in danger.
People carry a gun, he said, “because they can’t carry a policeman.”
“Stand your ground” laws have been controversial for years. But they got national attention in 2012 when George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida, fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.
Martin was wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of Skittles. Zimmerman said he shot and killed him because he feared great bodily harm or death, and he was ultimately acquitted by a jury.
“This is a very dangerous piece of legislation,” said Sen. Kiki Curls, a Kansas City Democrat. “A ‘perceived threat’ can mean a lot of things. That could be the way someone looks. It’s very dangerous. There’s a reason no other state in the country has passed a ‘stand your ground’ law since Trayvon Martin was killed.”
The law’s proponents say it simply expands the “castle doctrine,” which says a person can use force, including deadly force, to defend themselves at home or on their property.
When a person is out in public, current law states that they have a duty to at least try to retreat. A “stand your ground” law changes that.
“In a split second decision, you don’t have to worry about having to prove to the court that you tried to flee,” said Sen. Bob Dixon, a Springfield Republican. “That’s the only change we’re talking about here.”
A study by researchers at Texas A&M found “significant evidence that (stand your ground) laws lead to more homicides.” Homicide rates in states with “stand your ground” laws increased around 8 percent, the study found.