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Arkansas Legislature Passes "Stand Your Ground" Bill, Now Goes To Governor

Arkansas House

The Arkansas House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass Senate Bill 24, which establishes a "Stand Your Ground" statute in the state. 

The House voted 72-23, with one representative voting present, to pass the legislation. No Democrat voted for the bill, while three Republicans joined Democrats in voting against it. 

The vote on the House floor comes one day after the House Judiciary Committee narrowly voted to advance the bill on Tuesday, with a vote of 10-9. The same committee rejected the same bill earlier in February by a voice vote.

Proponents of the bill say it bolsters the state’s defense laws by removing the “duty to retreat” requirements in confrontations. According to the bill, those who are “lawfully present” in a location, do not have a duty to retreat before using physical force if threatened. 

Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R-Knoxville spoke on his bill while presenting it to the House floor

"This is merely a protection in the law that if you find yourself in a situation and you make that snap decision, that the law will protect you and not come after you," Pilkington said. 

Speaking for the bill on the House floor, Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, said he initially opposed the bill because of some of its language, but because of the effort the bill’s sponsors made to address some concerns with it, he was voting for it.

"Because the sponsors of the bill did what they said they would do, I’m going to do what I told them I would do. I’m going to support this bill," Smith said.

However, the language Smith wanted to add to the bill was never added because the House Judiciary Committee voted down an amendment that would have changed its language regarding the term "lawfully present." Said amendment was opposed by the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

Credit Arkansas House
The House vote for SB24

Lawmakers voting against the bill cited several reasons for their opposition, including the adequacy of the state’s existing self-defense laws as well as the possible increase in violent crime if the bill becomes law. 

Rep. Jay. Richardson, D-Fort Smith, was one of several members to speak against the bill on the House floor. 

"This bill scares me. I have been in situations where people have thought I was an aggressor because I walked up on them. Do you know how scary that is for me, to see a person reach in their back and not know what’s back there? I’m giving you personal experiences on what this bill is going to allow people to do," Richardson said. 

Speaking against the bill, Rep. Nicole Clowney, D-Fayetteville, said while she has heard from thousands of Arkansans saying the bill would make them less safe, she also did not hear from any law enforcement officers or prosecutors on a need for such legislation.

"Our self-defense laws are solid. That’s why prosecutors aren’t arguing for this. That’s why law enforcement officers aren’t arguing for this," Clowney said

The bill now goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk, where if signed, it will become law.

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