No standing ground in Massachusetts

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, lots of attention has been paid to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the statutory defense has been invoked in at least 140 cases since 2005 when the legislature enacted it, and some of those defendants pursued their victim or initiated the confrontation.

Much less attention has been paid to Massachusetts Senate Bill 661 which would adopt a “Stand Your Ground” defense for the Commonwealth. State Senator Stephen Brewer, Republican of Barre and chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, is sponsoring the bill and he’s been joined by 26 co-sponsors. Also promoting the bill is the Gun Owners’ Action League — their tag line is “Protecting Your Freedom Begins Here.”

The text proposed for Massachusetts differs from Florida’s, but the operative principle is the same – a person who is lawfully in a place (anyplace, not just a home) can use deadly force against a perceived assailant if the person believes the other was about to inflict great bodily injury or death on the person or another. There is no duty to retreat. And the person who invokes the defense cannot be arrested or prosecuted, cannot have a firearms license revoked and cannot be liable in a civil action. In this, the Massachusetts proposal is even broader than Florida’s.

According to the Boston Herald, Brewer defends the bill by saying “people to a degree are just getting sick and tired. (With) these iPhones, iPads, people are getting mugged and beat up terribly.” So, according to this reasoning, I can shoot and kill someone else and then claim I thought the person was about to hurt me in a mugging for my phone. And as long as I say that, I can’t be arrested, or prosecuted, or sued civilly. Incredibly, that’s what this bill would allow.

On the gun lobby website, Brewer says “Quite honestly, we’re Americans and we ought to be able to stand our ground. We stood our ground in Concord and Lexington, and we seem to be losing that.”

Concord and Lexington had to do with securing the right to have a democratically elected government. They had nothing to do with protecting an IPhone with deadly force.

No wonder law enforcement is against such bills. A “Stand Your Ground” law encourages a civilian to take the law into his own hands and use a gun against another simply because he thought the other person was about to inflict injury. Or says he thought so. Even though the belief about what the other person intended must be reasonable, it’s not hard to imagine that the survivor of a deadly encounter will tell a one-sided story to justify his own actions, without fear of contradiction by his dead victim.

Senate Bill 661 is slated to come before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in April. Here’s what you can do. Call and write to your state senator and representative. Call and write to the chairs of the Joint Committee. Let the sponsors know it’s a bad idea. And tell the Gun Owners’ Action League that your freedom does not depend on bad laws.

Cynthia Stone Creem, Chair of Joint Committee, Cynthia.Creem@masenate.gov

Eugene O’Flaherty, Chair of Joint Committee, Gene.O’Flaherty@mahouse.gov

Stephen M. Brewer, sponsor, Stephen.Brewer@masenate.gov

Shaunna O’Connell, co-sponsor, Shaunna.O’Connell@mahouse.gov

Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr., co-sponsor, Angelo.Puppolo@mahouse.gov

Clean H. Turner, co-sponsor, Cleon.Turner@mahouse.gov

Elizabeth A. Poirier, co-sponsor, Elizabeth.Poirier@mahouse.gov

Susan William Gifford, co-sponsor, Susan.Gifford@mahouse.gov

Nicholas A. Boldyga, co-sponsor, Nicholas.Boldyga@mahouse.gov

Thomas A. Golden, Jr., co-sponsor, Thomas.Golden@mahouse.gov

Paul K. Frost, co-sponsor, Paul.Frost@mahouse.gov

Matthew A. Beaton, co-sponsor, Matthew.Beaton@mahouse.gov

Demetrius J. Atsalis, co-sponsor, Demetrius.Atsalis@mahouse.gov

Daniel B. Winslow, co-sponsor, Daniel.Winslow@mahouse.gov

Bradley H. Jones, Jr., co-sponsor, Bradley.Jones@mahouse.gov

Dennis A. Rosa, co-sponsor, Dennis.Rosa@mahouse.gov

Viriato Manuel deMacedo, co-sponsor, Vinny.deMacedo@mahouse.gov

George T. Ross, co-sponsor, George.Ross@mahouse.gov

Michael O. Moore, co-sponsor, Michael.Moore@masenate.gov

Bruce E. Tarr, co-sponsor, Bruce.Tarr@masenate.gov

George N. Peterson, Jr., co-sponsor, George.Peterson@mahouse.gov

Todd M. Smola, co-sponsor, Todd.Smola@mahouse.gov

Marc T. Lombardo, co-sponsor, Marc.Lombardo@mahouse.gov

Anne M. Gobi, co-sponsor, Anne.Gobi@mahouse.gov

Randy Hunt, co-sponsor, Randy.Hunt@mahouse.gov

Christine E. Canavan, co-sponsor, Christine.Canavan@mahouse.gov

John J. Binienda, co-sponsor, John.Binienda@mahouse.gov

Donald F. Humason, Jr., co-sponsor, Donald.Humason@mahouse.gov

Richard Bastien, co-sponsor, Richard.Bastien@mahouse.gov

updated: 4 months ago