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Arkansas Moves Quickly with Stand Your Ground Legislation

By: José Niño

Despite gun owners’ fears that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was going to veto a bill to strengthen Ohio’s Stand Your Ground laws, DeWine ended up signing the bill without controversy.

Now, Arkansas could be joining the Buckeye State in bolstering its Stand Your Ground law. Tom Knighton of Bearing Arms observed that Arkansas “…is pretty strong on gun rights in very many ways,” but its self-defense laws leave a lot to be desired. Arkansas is a “Duty to Retreat” state, which compels people in deadly situations to escape as opposed to using self-defense.

In essence, you have to run away from an attacker who could kill you. Some people can pull this off, but for those who are out of shape, elderly, disabled, etc., they’re up a creek without a paddle. Under such dangerous circumstances, the right to use lethal force against criminals is the great equalizer. Many politicians, who live in posh neighborhoods free of crime, frankly don’t comprehend this.

In Arkansas’ case, some elected officials are starting to get a clue. On December 24, 2020, several Arkansas Republicans introduced Senate Bill 24, which would erase language from the state’s criminal codes that requires individuals to retreat before employing lethal force in self-defense against assailants.

A similar bill was introduced in 2019, but it ended up dying in the Senate Judiciary Committee after a Republican teamed up with three Democrats to vote down the measure. In addition, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was not exactly gung-ho about passing Stand Your Ground legislation at the time. According to the Texarkana Gazette, Hutchinson was “hesitant” about changing the state’s self-defense laws.

There is good news on the horizon for Arkansas’ updated Stand Your Ground reform, though. On January 13, 2021, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of this bill, when this same committee previously voted down the bill.

“It’s tighter and cleaner,” the sponsor of the bill, State Senator Bob Ballinger, said when describing it. “There’s a few amendments that we’ve done to clarify the law, but other than that, it’s substantially the same bill as last time.”

Arkansas is currently ranked as the 19th friendliest state for gun owners according to Guns & Ammo magazine’s recent national rankings. The state is a solid jurisdiction for gun rights, but it still has work to do. Strengthening its Stand Your Ground laws would be a good place to start.

One does not need to panic about the 2020 electoral results at the federal level. There are still plenty of avenues for change at state legislatures nationwide. With anti-gun Democrats in control in D.C., it will be much easier to energize local activists and channel their frustrations into solid pro-Second Amendment victories at the state level. From there, grassroots networks can be turned into electoral battering rams in the 2022 midterms and beyond.

Political opportunities abound, but it’s a matter of actively looking for them. Non-election years are when robust political movements are developed. Second Amendment activists should quickly recognize where the action is and use legislative efforts like those in Arkansas to expand their influence.

José Niño is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Sign up for his mailing list here. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at joseinpolitics@gmail.com. Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.

 
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