Since 2010, the Alaska state legislature has debated the passage of a “Stand Your Ground” law. Versions of the bill have made their way through committee, passed in the House, and then ultimately stalled in the Senate.
Now, the bill is back.
Sponsor Mark Neuman, a Republican representative from Big Lake, introduced it to the House Judiciary committee on Wednesday, and explained that it expands what’s known as the “castle doctrine.” Right now, if a person is in their home or business, that person is justified in using deadly force in self-defense, even if he or she could theoretically retreat.
“HB24 clarifies that right exists not only in our home but also in other place we have a right to be,” Neuman says.
Basically, any place a person isn’t trespassing.
Stand Your Ground laws are on the books in two dozen states, and Florida’s version was the subject of national controversy after Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
That incident came up during the hearing of House Bill 24, when a member of the public expressed support for the law because he believed it would exonerate Alaskans in similar situations.
Brian Judy, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, testified that the Stand Your Ground law actually had limited applicability in the Martin case because either Zimmerman was the attacker or he couldn’t retreat, depending on which version of events was accurate. Even so, Judy suggested that the shooting caused Alaska legislators to think twice about passing a Stand Your Ground law.
“I think that quite frankly that incident had something to do with this bill failing last year, failing to pass the Senate,” Judy says.
Representatives from from the Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Public Defender Agency answered questions about HB24, but did not speak in favor of the bill or against it. Previously, the Alaska Department of Law has registered concern over Stand Your Ground legislation, stating that it could “authorize vigilantism.” None of the testifiers registered opposition to the bill during the first hearing.
The Stand Your Ground bill is just one of many pieces of legislation concerning defense and gun policy. At the same hearing where HB24 was introduced, Rep. Charisse Millett, a Republican from Anchorage, introduced a resolution that encourages the president to rescind his recent executive orders on gun control.
With Republican majorities in both chambers, the current legislature is seen as being friendlier to such policies than the previous one.