LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Senate Judiciary Committee listened to the first bill of the 2021 Regular Session on Wednesday. SB24 is the “Stand Your Ground” bill and many remember the lively debate it sparked in 2019 when State Senator Bob Ballinger ran the bill then.
State Senator Stephanie Flowers reminded the committee on Wednesday of that moment and said she was not trying to make another viral moment. She maintains her argument that this bill would turn people, who are not trained as much as law enforcement, into ‘judge, jury, and executioner’. She said, “But you got a gun and they said the magic words and so *pop* you’re just going to shoot them.”
Senator Ballinger maintains that the only thing this bill is doing is removing the ‘Duty to Retreat’ in Arkansas’ self-defense law. Ballinger says that many prosecutors already don’t take into account the duty to retreat when looking at these types of cases but says that while that is well-intentioned, it’s not their job to do that, “I get that and the only problem with that is that its not really their job. It’s their job to enforce the law, not to make good decisions what good and better policy is under the law.”
State Senator Jim Hendren, who is also a Republican, asked Senator Ballinger if this bill was necessary, “Is there a case in Arkansas of somebody being prosecuted because they exercised their right to self-defense?”
Senator Hendren also told Senator Ballinger it was a compelling argument that 34 other states have a law like this, but that it would be more compelling if 46 other states had a similar law, in reference to his Hate Crimes Bill, that Senator Ballinger is opposed to.
Senator Ballinger says the law has worked in those other states and would just bring Arkansas on the same footing, “Is not only bring us into conformity with most jurisdictions. Most jurisdictions does not put the burden on the innocent party to prove they had the ability to retreat. “
Tamara Biggs spoke against SB24 saying that the language in the bill would leave to many things open to interpretation and that negatively effects minorities when applying this type of law, “”Which leads to inconsistent applications of laws and accountabilities for actions and I ask that you all just truly just consider myself but the people who look like me that this bill should not be passed.”
A roll call was asked for SB24 and Senators Flowers and Hendren voted against it and Senators Stubblefield, Ballinger, Garner, Rice, and Johnson voted in favor so it passed 5-2. It will now move to the full Senate for debate.