Despite passionate support from some residents and Republican politicians, Arkansas will not see a new ‘Stand Your Ground’ law on the books this year.
Senator Bob Ballinger introduced SB484 this year. The bill would have amended Arkansas’s current self-defense law so that a person could use deadly force in self-defense without having a duty retreat as long as the person:
- Is lawfully present at the location where deadly physical force is used;
- Has a reasonable belief that there is an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury;
- Has not provoked the person against whom the deadly physical force is used;
- Is not in unlawful possession of a weapon used to employ the deadly physical force;
- Is not engaged in criminal activity that gives rise to the need for the use of deadly physical force at the time the deadly physical force is used; and
- Is not engaged in any activity in furtherance of a criminal gang, organization or enterprise.
Local news affiliate KNWA reports that one man, Jesse Pettry, fought hard to get the bill passed because he had to use deadly force to protect himself from an attack that happened at a Florida gas station in 2002.
“The people got back into their car and were yelling something, backed their car out in between me and the gas station and they were yelling, cussing, spit at me out of the passenger side of the car. And I was like, ‘man it’s Christmas why don’t you go ahead and leave me alone?” said Jesse Pettry.
Pettry told KNWA that he ducked his head down and just started throwing punches over and over and over again. His cousin got out of the car with a weapon and hit me in the back of the head. “All I remember is I saw black and white and then some colors and then some black again,” Pettry said.
After being almost beaten to death, Pettry reached for a knife in his pocket and stabbed his attacker. Pettry faced felony criminal charges as a result of defending himself from the attack. He fought for the passage of the stand your ground law so that Arkansans would be able to protect themselves without facing criminal charges.
The bill faced stiff opposition from Democrats, most notably from state Rep. Stephanie Flowers. Rep. Flowers, who was the sole black member of the committee considering the bill, was concerned about the effect the stand your ground law would have on minorities.
State Sen. Stephanie Flowers had a powerful and emotional response to a white lawmaker trying to silence her in a debate on Arkansas' ‘stand your ground’ gun laws pic.twitter.com/aZ1OQg2mOs
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) March 8, 2019
“It doesn’t take much to look on the local news every night and see how many black kids, black boys, black men are being killed with these Stand Your Ground defenses that these people raise, and they get off. So I take issue with that. I’m the only person here of color. I am a mother, too. And I have a son. And I care as much for my son as y’all care for y’all’s. But my son doesn’t walk the same path as your does. So this debate deserves more time,” Flowers said.
Ultimately, the bill was defeated in committee. It has currently been assigned to an Interim Committee for further study. The earliest that the bill will be reconsidered is during the 2021 legislative session.