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ABA opposes controversial 'stand your ground' laws

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Leigh-Ann Buchanan speaking

Photo of Leigh-Ann Buchanan by Kathy Anderson

The ABA House of Delegates took a strong stand and passed a resolution against new "stand your ground" laws, and urged repeal or substantial amendment of existing ones.

Leigh-Ann A. Buchanan of Miami, who co-chairs the ABA's National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws, was granted special privileges to introduce Resolution 112 in the House during the midyear meeting. The resolution was the culmination of two years of work by the task force, which was convened in 2013 by past ABA President James Silkenat.

After the 2012 death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, national attention focused on such laws, which remove the duty to retreat before using lethal force if a person feels there is imminent risk of bodily harm.

Buchanan quoted numerous experts and statistics that found no empirical support for the idea that stand-your-ground laws increase public safety. Indeed, she said, researchers have found an 8 percent increase in homicides in states with stand-your-ground laws, even though homicide rates are down nationally.

Research also shows a substantial racial disparity in the outcome of stand-your-ground defenses, Buchanan said. A white shooter with an African-American victim was 350 percent more likely to be found justified than a white-on-white shooter, she said. If the races are reversed, a black person who shoots a white person is found justified "in a mere 3 percent of cases."

Several delegates voiced support of the measure, including Monte Frank of Danbury, Connecticut. He spoke about the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and his work with one of the mothers there, then urged a "yes" vote.
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