U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appears to be a man on a mission.
That mission: in addition to using the Justice Department resources he has on hand to investigate whether George Zimmerman committed civil rights violations in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, he is also putting crosshairs on self-defense laws, like Florida’s controversial ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.
On Tuesday, in an address before the NAACP, an emboldened Holder expressed his resolve in finding ways to repeal laws do not require one to retreat and that allow one to use force, including deadly force, in public places.
Those laws “try to fix something that was never broken” and “senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods,” Holder said.
“By allowing — and perhaps encouraging — violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety,” he continued. “We must stand our ground to ensure that our laws reduce violence and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.”
While Zimmerman’s attorneys did not explicitly invoke ‘Stand Your Ground’ during the trial, the text of the law was given to the jury, i.e. “a person has no duty to retreat if he/she reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm or the commission of a forcible felony, e.g. robbery.”
To what extent the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law played in the Jury’s acquittal of George Zimmerman is unclear, but was is clear is that Florida has no plans of taking the law off the books.
“Immediately following Trayvon Martin’s death, Governor Scott called a bi-partisan Special Task Force with 19 citizens to review Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. This Task Force listened to Floridians across the state and heard their viewpoints and expert opinions on this law,” said Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers in a written statement released on Tuesday.
“The task force recommended that the law should not be overturned, and Governor Scott agrees,” she concluded.
Roughly 30 states have either expanded ‘Castle Doctrine’ laws or ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws that allow one to use deadly force in any place they have a lawful right to be if he/she reasonably fears for his/her life.
The National Rifle Association criticized Holder for shifting focus to Florida’s self-defense law.
“The attorney general fails to understand that self-defense is not a concept, it’s a fundamental human right,” Chris W. Cox, the executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.
“To send a message that legitimate self-defense is to blame is unconscionable, and demonstrates once again that this administration will exploit tragedies to push their political agenda,” he added.
Due his history as a pro-gun control advocate, the fact that Holder is casting blame on common sense self-defense laws should not be a surprise to gun owners. Though, to be honest, blame is probably were it ends because as attorney general there’s not much he can effectively do to overturn state laws.
Likewise, many legal experts are predicting that the DOJ’s civil rights investigation into Zimmerman will also end up going no where. Former federal prosecutor in Florida, David Weinstein, told CNN that the DOJ would have to show that Zimmerman “caused the death of Trayvon Martin solely motivated by/because of his race or color.”
According to Weinstein, “This element was absent from the state trial and quite frankly doesn’t exist.”
The six person jury, all women, that found Zimmerman “not guilty” also seemed to agree that race played no factor in the shooting death of Martin.