State Lawmakers are Taking Full Advantage of the Chaos in D.C.

While President Trump has been blasting the media, confusing Americans with false claims and creating chaos with the federal government, state legislators have quietly been passing bills.

I want to talk about state legislation in session and what they’ve been up to. This blog post and the next will be dedicated to two different bills that have been controversial, and has received little attention from the media. State legislation are in session, and while most of the media has been focused with what’s been going on in D.C., many legislation have been using that to their advantage.

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State Senator Rob Bradley (left), wrote the Stand Your Ground measure. (Scott Keeler/The Tampa Bay Times, via Associated Press)

In Florida, lawmakers have begun to take steps to pass the state’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” gun law. This law will allow people to use deadly force rather than retreat from a threat taking place. Now this bill has been proposed by several other states, including Florida, but Florida is adding on to the bill which is why its at the center of controversy.

If passed, the bill would strengthen it’s (already expanded) self-defense laws and shift the “burden of proof” to prosecutors rather than defense attorneys, in pretrial immunity hearings.

This means that defendants would no longer have to present evidence to prove themselves not-guilty. Supporters of the bill said they did not want people to jump through hoops in order to prove they acted in self-defense.

Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association (NRA) talked to the New York Times and said”If you exercise a God-given right, the right of self-defense, you don’t have the same rights as everybody else. You’re not innocent until proven guilty, that’s wrong. That’s what needs to be fixed.”

The measure, which was passed by the Senate (23-15 along party lines) has been opposed by Democrats and state prosecutors who believe it will only strain the criminal justice system and discourage witnesses in sensitive cases from testifying.

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Republican State Senator Rob Bradley (left) and Wilton Simpson talk during debate on the Stand Your Ground bill. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Phil Archer, the state attorney for Brevard and Seminole counties says, “This is an anti-law enforcement bill. It’s saying they don’t trust law enforcement either at the arresting stage or filing stage or state attorney, that we don’t understand a self-defense case.” Archer is also a member of the NRA and teaches self-defense, including stand your ground.

The Law is also opposed by the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches. “Shifting the burden of proof to prosecutors increases the potential of denying justice to victims and their families. These laws are often applied in a racially biased manner, they do not deter crime, and the bottom line is that they make it easier for people to murder other human beings and not face any legal consequence,” said Adora Obi Nweze, the group’s president.

A professor at the UCLA School of Law, Adam Winkler, talked to the Washington Post and said “Stand Your Ground” has been a long-standing legal principle to justify the use of deadly force, but if Florida’s measure goes through, it would give special weight to defendants, including gun defendants.

“This new revised stand-your-ground law may really inhibit the proper functioning of the judicial system… No other criminal defendant gets the benefit of a trial before a trial, a trial to see if they can go on trial.”

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