Arkansas Senate Passes 'Stand Your Ground' Legislation, Now Heads To House Committee

Jan 19, 2021

Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock was one of five Democrats and one Republican to speak against the legislation.
Credit Arkansas Senate

Editor's Note: An earlier version of the story stated that all 27 votes for the bill came from Republicans, when one Democrat did vote for the bill. The story has been edited to reflect that vote. 

A bill that would establish a “Stand Your Ground” law in Arkansas was approved Tuesday by the state Senate and now advances to a House committee.

Senators voted 27-7 to pass the bill, with Republicans and one Democrat making up the 27 yes votes, while one Republican joined Democrats in voting no.

Senate Bill 24, which made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, removes the "duty to retreat" in instances of self-defense. The policy, which at least 36 other states have adopted in some form, including all that surround Arkansas, has garnered criticism that it increases violent crime.

One critic of the bill was Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, who said Arkansans already have the ability to defend themselves without retreating. Elliott also said she does not know of a specific instance in the state that warrants such legislation.

"I do have instances where I know we don’t need the bill," Elliott said, "because 'Stand Your Ground' is all too common without the bill y’all. It is."

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Ozark, argued the current ability to defend oneself in their own home without retreating should be expanded.

"If that’s good policy, why shouldn’t it be everywhere else where you have a right to be? Any other person where your person is? Where your children are? Where somebody that you love is? Why can’t you have that same right there, that we have in our home?" Ballinger said. "I think we can, and I think we’ll see that there will be no new dead people who will be killed by this. What you’ll see is people who will feel more confident in their defense, in their self-defense and taking care of themselves."

While being debated in committee last week, the bill received criticism from Second Amendment supporters who had concerns over the phrase "lawfully present," saying that meaning could change over time, depending on who is leading the country.

Sen. Alan Clark, R-Hot Springs, spoke in favor of the bill Tuesday and also spoke about the criticism.

"This moves gun rights forward. We hardly ever get perfection. Do not let perfect be the enemy of good. It’s a good bill, we need to pass it," Clark said.

The final vote for Senate Bill 24
Credit Arkansas Senate

Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, was the lone Republican senator to vote against the bill. He argued that if it becomes law, there would no longer be a state policy for de-escalations when it comes to confrontations.

"The statistics that I have read are clear. There will be more homicides, some of them justified, some of them preventable. I just don’t see why that’s necessary. When the prosecutors tell us it’s not necessary, the police tell us it’s not necessary, there’s not a problem. I don’t understand why we’re doing it," Hendren said.

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.