At a meeting of the Arkansas legislature, state senator Stephanie Flowers unleashed on a Republican colleague who was trying to cut short debate on a controversial “stand your ground” bill, allowing gun owners to use deadly force in the name of self-defence.
The Democratic state senator decried the gun measure and described to her fellow lawmakers how similar laws across the U.S. disproportionately affect people of colour.
“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 defences that these people raise,” Flowers said Wednesday.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the bill, sponsored by three GOP state senators, would remove a section from the current law that required a “duty to retreat” in self-defence cases. Previous efforts to push similar “stand your ground” laws in the state have all failed within the past decade, the Gazette reported.
Flowers said it was “crazy” to limit debate on the important issues and the senator said she was glad her 27-year-old son no longer lives in Arkansas.
“I am the only person here of colour. I am a mother, too, and I have a son,” Flowers said. “I care as much for my son as y’all care for yours. But my son doesn’t walk the same path as yours does. So this debate deserves more time.”
Flowers cited instances in which people had entered the legislature carrying guns.
“I worry about other little black boys and girls,” she said. “People coming into my neighbourhood, into my city, saying they’ve got open carry rights, walking down in front of my doggone office in front of the courthouse. That’s a bully!”
As Flowers’ emotional speech continued, committee chairman, Sen. Alan Clark (R), attempted to cut her off.
“Senator, you need to stop talking,” he whispered.
“No, I don’t!” Flowers said
“Yes, you do,” Clark replied.
“No, I don’t,” Flowers said. “What the hell you going to do, shoot me?”
As Clark attempted to quiet her, Flowers erupted with: “Senator s—. Go to hell. I’m telling you, this deserves more attention.”
WATCH: Shooting prompts renewed debate over Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law
The measure was defeated 4-3, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported, but it may be reintroduced next week.
Most U.S. states have some form of legal protection in cases of self-defence and 25 have enacted specific “stand your ground” laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
The stand your ground law in Florida sparked a national debate and came under renewed scrutiny following the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The issue made headlines again in 2018 when Michael Drejka was charged with manslaughter charge after fatally shooting Markeis McGlockton during a July 19 argument over a convenience store parking space.
A 2017 study examining the effects of the law in Florida found an almost 25 per cent spike in homicides after it was brought into effect in 2005.
Another study in Florida showed the laws perpetuate racial bias. The 2015 study examined 204 cases in the state in which the stand your ground law was cited as a defence. The study found that in cases argued from 2005 to 2013, juries were twice as likely to convict the suspect of a crime committed against a white person than against a person of colour.
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