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Holder Calls For 'Hard Look' At 'Stand Your Ground' Laws

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the annual convention of the NAACP in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday. Holder told the convention that "Stand Your Ground" laws that have been adopted in 30 states should be reconsidered.
David Manning
/
Reuters /Landov
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the annual convention of the NAACP in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday. Holder told the convention that "Stand Your Ground" laws that have been adopted in 30 states should be reconsidered.

Saying that "it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods," Attorney Gen. Eric Holder on Tuesday called for a reexamination of so-called stand your ground laws.

It was just such a law that hovered over the trial of George Zimmerman for the death of teenager Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, who was acquitted of wrongdoing, did not mount a stand your ground defense. But the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting of Trayvon raised the profile of stand your ground laws in Florida and the more than 20 other states that have them. As we've written, they "allow the use of deadly force if someone believes he is being threatened by deadly force" and do not require that the person in peril retreat should that chance arise.

Speaking Tuesday to the NAACP's annual convention in Orlando, Holder said of stand your ground laws that:

-- They "try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if — and the 'if' is important — no safe retreat is available."

-- "We must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely. By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety. The list of resulting tragedies is long and — unfortunately — has victimized too many who are innocent."

-- "It is our collective obligation — 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."

Update at 6:30 p.m. ET. Strong Reaction:

Holder's remarks about stand your ground laws generated loud cheers and applause from the NAACP delegates, NPR's Susannah George tells us. She was at the convention in Orlando.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.