Highlighted by the national controversy surrounding February’s shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, Gov. Patrick announced on his monthly radio show this week that he would not allow any law to be signed similar to Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
A bill presented by Democratic Senator Stephen Brewer of Barre and supported by over two dozen Massachusetts legislators is now reaching the state’s Joint Committee on Judiciary. The bill has failed to pass the committee before.
Senator Brewer could not be reached today, but in a statement provided to the Associated Press he said that he has “no interest in the commonwealth resorting to vigilante justice.”
Senate bill 661 titled an Act Relative to the Common Defense would expand on the state’s already existing “Castle Doctrine” which legally protects individuals who use self defense in scenarios such as home invasion where they feel physically threatened. The Common Defense bill would protect those choosing to use deadly force if they feel threatened and that those individuals have no duty to retreat from where they stand.
Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts supports Senator Brewer’s bill, saying that it’s necessary and citizen’s rights to defend themselves. Executive Director of GOAL Jim Wallace says the term “stand your ground” gives the bill a negative connotation.
John Rosenthal, founder and chair of Boston-based Stop Handgun Violence says the bill is unnecessary and would create more problems than it would solve. Rosenthal says that some gun laws sponsored in part by the NRA in states around the US that remove restrictions on firearms, as well as Florida-like “stand your ground” laws are unsafe for society.
State Senator Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield, who recently attended a local rally in support for justice for Trayvon Martin, says that he agrees with the governor’s position on the Common Defense bill. He also said that he doesn’t see the bill being able to pass through the Judiciary Committee.