For the third year in a row, Rep. Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville) has proposed expanding Alabama’s Stand-Your-Ground law to include legal protection for those using deadly force to protect churches or church members. As the bill has stalled in the house, Greer and six of his colleagues have proposed constitutional amendments for their counties should HB 49 fail to pass again.
On Wednesday, the House Local Legislation Committee will discuss HB 523, introduced by Rep. Andrew Sorrell (R-Muscle Shoals) for Colbert County and hold a public hearing for HB 465, introduced by Rep. Ron Johnson (R-Sylacauga) for Talladega County.
The same committee has yet to put the bills sponsored by Rep. Jamie Kiel, HB 536 (R-Russellville), and Rep. April Weaver (R-Alabaster), HB 562 and HB 563, on their agenda. These bills would affect Franklin, Bibb, and Chilton Counties respectively.
HB 49 is a dangerous bill, and it has stalled in the house for good reason. Passing the same bill piecemeal in a few counties is even more dangerous, especially for neighboring counties that do not expand Stand Your Ground.
Alabama already has one of the most expansive Stand Your Ground laws in the country, modeled on Florida’s law, which research shows have raised gun crime and the use of Stand Your Ground defenses in court. The eight constitutional amendments before the Alabama legislature not only attempt to bypass the full legislative process for passing a statewide bill, but also these amendments would allow any person to use deadly force when someone in a religious group perceives almost any kind of physical threat — even in cases where the use of deadly force is clearly not necessary.
Alabama’s Stand Your Ground law creates an environment in which people shoot first and ask questions later. These amendments make this dangerous mindset worse, as they could easily be exploited to give violent criminals a way to use deadly force without facing any consequences. Indeed, an average of thirty people is killed monthly across the country as a result of Stand Your Ground Laws. Alabama ranks second in the nation for gun death per 100,000 residents – a dismal status earned for the second year in a row. HB49 and its county-specific companion bills threaten to raise our state’s rate of gun death and will make Alabama less safe for all its citizens and visitors.
None of these bills should be on the ballot next election day.