JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Sen. Bob Dixon’s SB 663 on criminal offenses has become something of an omnibus piece of legislation. It creates new regulations on everything ranging from elder abuse reporting, Miranda warnings for juvenile offenders, shackling of pregnant women and juveniles, probation and parole, alcohol and marijuana regulations and others after a large swath of amendments.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer added one of its most controversial provisions yet to the bill Thursday night by tacking on the language of his “stand your ground” measure.
A stand your ground law follows the same guiding principle of the “castle doctrine” that allows a person to use deadly force on their property without forcing a person to retreat if they feel their safety is threatened. Stand your ground laws extend castle doctrines to not just include personal property but anywhere a person is legally allowed to be, essentially a public place.
Schaefer cited cases where people in public defended themselves using deadly force in public at still faced litigation for their actions. He believes the current law in Missouri gives those that wish to do harm to others too much leeway, and that people should not be forced to retreat under the threat of their own life.
“I think we need to stop giving criminals the benefit of the doubt,” he said.
But opponents of the measure fear the law could create a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality that could give people too much leeway for being quick on the trigger.
“Passing a Stand Your Ground bill here in Missouri would turn everyday conflicts into deadly encounters by emboldening people to shoot rather than resolving disagreements in another way,” said Becky Morgan, volunteer chapter leader of the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action.
Senate Democrats were also skeptical of the law, even Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, who said he supported castle doctrine statutes.
“Changing the statute but not changing the parameters by which it can be used is setting it up for misuse,” Holsman said.
Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis, made mention of Trayvon Martin while inquiring Schaefer. Martin was the black teenager killed in Florida in 2012 by George Zimmerman, who used Florida’s stand your ground law as his primary defense to justify the killing as means of self-defense. Zimmerman was charged with murder, but later acquited.
After about a half hour of debate, the amendment passed along party lines. The underlying bill is now on the Senate formal calendar for third reading.