Testifying Before Senate, Mothers Affected By Stand Your Ground Call For Changes

Oct 29, 2013

U.S. Senators Tuesday sparred on Capitol Hill over Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The Congressional hearing to review the law also included personal testimony from some affected by it.

The Mothers Share Their Stories

“I appear before you because my son Jordan was shot and killed last November while sitting in the back seat of his friends car listening to loud music,” said Lucia McBath.

Speaking before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Tuesday, McBath recalled the events that led to the death of her son Jordan Davis in Jacksonville. The man who killed him invoked Stand Your Ground, saying he told Davis and his friends to turn down their music and then shot at the group in self-defense because he claims one of them had a gun. But McBath says that’s not true.

“The man who killed him opened fire on four unarmed teenagers even as they tried to move out of harm’s way. That man was empowered by the Stand Your Ground statute. I am here to tell you that man had no ground to stand,” added McBath.

Her son’s case has been compared to that of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teen who was shot and killed last year by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, too, claimed self-defense. And, Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton says there needs to be a change.

“As I think about this as a mother, and I think about how many kids walk to the store, and how many kids now feel they cannot be safe in their own community, I think about the message we’re sending as parents, as lawmakers, because remember these are our kids in our communities don’t feel safe—don’t’ feel safe simply walking to the store to get candy and a drink," said Fulton.

“I just wanted to come here to talk to you for a moment to let you know how important it is that we amend this Stand Your Ground because it certainly did not work in my case. The person that shot and killed my son is walking the streets today."

The Senate Debate On Stand Your Ground

Many other guest speakers also cited Trayvon Martin’s case. But the panel’s Vice Chair, Texas Republican Ted Cruz, says he doesn’t see why.  Cruz argued Stand Your Ground wasn’t a factor in the trial, adding that’s why he also didn’t see a purpose in Tuesday’s hearing.

“The subject of this hearing—the Stand Your Ground laws—was not a defense that Mr. Zimmerman raised, so the topic of this hearing is not the issue on which that trial turned. And, sadly, we know that some of our political process have a desire to exploit that tragic violent incident for a agendas that have nothing to do with that young man who lost his life,” said Cruz.

It was later pointed out But it was later pointed out during the hearing that the law was cited in the instructions given to the jury before they handed down their verdict acquitting Zimmerman.

Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, who chairs the committee, says he disagrees with Cruz about the purpose of the hearing. He says it’s worth discussing the racial implications of Stand Your Ground and its effect on gun legislation in Congress.

“It’s important Congress review Stand Your Ground laws because of the way proposed federal legislation implicates those laws. Just this past April, 57 Senators voted for a gun lobby amendment that would allow a person who receives a concealed carry permit to buy a gun in one state to carry a gun in every state, even if the person would be disqualified from getting a permit in the other states because of criminal convictions, inadequate training, or other factors,” said Durbin.

What's Next In Florida?

Meanwhile, several bills have already been filed for Florida’s 2014 legislative session that would either amend or repeal Stand Your Ground, but all face an uncertain fate.

A bill is already starting to move through the Florida Legislature aiming to tweak Stand Your Ground. A hearing is also scheduled next week in the Florida House to look into its repeal—a move Florida Republicans are likely to block.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.