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Arizona Has a "Stand Your Ground" Law Too.

If the idea of 'stand your ground' sounds like something that could happen only in Florida, think again.  Lawmakers here quietly approved a similar plan two years ago.

The issue arose as Dave Kopp of the Arizona Citizens Defense League was trying to keep police from keeping track of who owns guns. But Kopp got Chuck Gray, who then was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to tack on language adding a new provision to Arizona's self-defense laws. 

It reads: "A person has no duty to retreat before threatening or using deadly physical force pursuant to this section if the person is in a place where the person may legally be and is not engaged in an unlawful act."

Kopp noted in his 2010 testimony that existing law already spelled out that people have no duty to retreat when confronted in their homes or their own vehicles.

"The existing, again, what we refer to as castle doctrine, extends to the boundary of your home or car," said Kopp. To put it simply, any place that you have a legal right to be, you should be able to defend yourself without having to run away first."

Total time Kopp spent promoting the issue to lawmakers: 20 seconds. The measure sailed not only through the committee but the full House and Senate. There were a few negative votes. One came from Sen. Linda Lopez. But she acknowledged on Monday that neither she nor anyone else stood up to object.

"I think Howie that people really didn't understand that there could be some really negative consequences of that kind of action," she said. "I have a problem with a lot of the gun laws that go down around here anyway. But that one I just felt like you could use that excuse to get away with murder, so to speak, and there would not be an ability for law enforcement for law enforcement to have consequences for people who abuse that."

But Gray said he understood exactly what Kopp was proposing -- and what he agreed to sponsor.

"We never ask our police officers to retreat if they are threatened," he said. "If they are delegated that authority that means that same authority resides or maintains with the citizens themselves. They don't have a duty to retreat when confronted."

And gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said his boss was not confused when she signed the legislation.

"Self defense is self defense," said Benson. "So regardless of whether you are in your home or in your vehicle or standing lawfully in the middle of the street, an individual shouldn't be required to retreat in order to defend their life."

Benson also noted that Arizona's stand your ground law is more restrictive than the Florida statute that George Zimmerman's lawyers cited after the shooting of Travyon Martin. In Arizona the right to remain and fight -- and use deadly physical force -- is linked to someone else's use or threatened use of deadly physical force. The Florida statute allows individuals to stand their ground to -- quote -- meet force with force -- and applies not only in cases of preventing death but also block great physical harm to self or others or prevent the commission of a forcible felony. It was not just lawmakers who did not object to the measure at the time. Neither did any prosecutor. But Kathleen Mayer, lobbyist for the Pima County Attorney's Office said the 2010 law is not a license for someone to use deadly force.

"If a reasonable person -- in other words, a jury of your peers -- doesn't think that you would be justified in that circumstance for using deadly force against an unarmed person," said Mayer, "just because you didn't have to turn around and run away doesn't mean that you're automatically off the hook for a homicide."

To date there has been no move to repeal the law. 


Related Content
  • The law, passed in 2005, got rid of the English Law concept of "duty to retreat" from a dangerous situation. Instead, a person can hold his ground and meet force with force — deadly if they feel is necessary.
  • Even before Trayvon Martin's shooting, Florida's "stand your ground" law was controversial. Prosecutors in the state fought the law's passage. Since the law's introduction, cases ruled justifiable homicides have tripled. The Martin shooting is leading to calls to re-examine the law in Florida.
  • At the heart of the controversial law is this question: What constitutes provocation? Since the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin made law the subject of national debate, one of the legislators who helped write it, Rep. Dennis Baxley, has been adamant in his belief that the law simply doesn't apply in this case.
  • Prosecutors in the case against George Zimmerman must prove that he intentionally killed Trayvon Martin, that his actions are not protected under Florida's "stand your ground law," and convince a judge to proceed with the case. His defenders will need to show Zimmerman acted in self defense.