Letter: Repeal Stand Your Ground

To the Editor:

I recently testified before the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of HB135 to repeal the state’s “stand your ground” law. HB135 is not a gun-control bill. It restores the duty to retreat when a life-threatening encounter occurs in a public place, but only if it is completely safe to do so.

“Stand your ground” laws do not deter crime. States with such laws have significantly higher rates of firearm injuries and homicides. In a review of almost 200 Florida case files, it was found that most people who were killed or wounded in “stand your ground” incidents were unarmed and were not committing a crime when the incident occurred. Criminals are using “stand your ground” as a defense in court for killing or wounding someone.

There is potential for misinterpreting someone’s behavior resulting in the use of deadly force when there is no danger. In 1994, during my son’s college spring break, a former high school classmate recruited him and other friends to film a car chase for a college film class. These naïve college kids with toy guns never thought to inform the police about their project. You can guess what happened. Someone in the neighborhood where the filming was taking place called the police. Police from two communities arrived, guns drawn. Fortunately no one was hurt. Under “stand your ground,” someone feeling threatened might have shot these kids.

Criminologists say when people with guns receive the message that they have a right to stand and fight rather than retreat, the threshold for using a gun goes down. As a chief assistant attorney from one Florida county states, it may be legal for someone to use his or her weapon in self-defense, “but at the end of the day, was it really necessary?”

I asked the same question of our state Senate Judiciary Committee: Is “stand your ground” really necessary in New Hampshire? Please join me in writing all state senators in support of HB135. Contact information can be found online at the Legislature’s website.

Dena B. Romero