A ‘Stand your Ground’ bill has passed its first hurdle after a Senate committee passed the measure by a 5-2 vote on Wednesday (Jan. 13).
The first bill to be heard by the Senate Judiciary committee this session was SB24 – a bill ending the duty to retreat when using physical or deadly force.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Oark, said he was confident it would pass out of committee – a similar sentiment shared by Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff.
Ballinger’s efforts to pass a similar bill in 2019 fell short. That Senate Judiciary committee debate was the setting when Flowers went viral for her emotional testimony against the bill.
Once again, Flowers spoke against the bill and highlighted that five committee members were also co-sponsors of the bill. The measure needed five votes to clear the committee.
“To me, the bill represents a solution that is grounded in fear that will cause unintended consequences,” said Flowers. “What we’re saying in Senate Bill 24, we’re letting the private citizen without training, just go out there. He becomes the judge, jury and executioner – we don’t need no courts, we don’t need no law enforcement, we got stand your ground.”
Ballinger’s bill would end the duty to retreat when using physical or deadly force, as long as the person using the deadly force is lawfully present, has reasonable belief they’re being threatened, they’re not engaged in criminal or gang activity, the person is not a felon, and not the initial aggressor.
“If you want to make laws, bring people to the table that it’s going to affect the most – stop making laws that people aren’t at the table who it’s going to affect,” said Tamara Bates, a student at Philander Smith College who spoke against the bill. “That’s all that I ask. Start going into the community, step into the community…find some type of common ground.”
Following nearly three hours of debate, the bill ultimately passed out of committee.
“Obviously like anything – we have a lot of different personalities out here and so we’ve got to continue to go to work, but we really anticipate it becoming law,” said Ballinger.
“What they’re saying is – forget talking it out, end it right there like the wild, wild west and that’s not what we are for, that’s why we’re against Senate Bill 24,” said Fernando Woods, another person who testified.
Shortly after the bill passed out of committee, Ballinger attempted to fast track the bill on the Senate floor, but his motion to suspend the rules failed to meet the two-thirds majority. It is expected to pass the State Senate on Monday. If it does, it will be sent to the House Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Ballinger was a guest on today’s Talk Business & Politics Capitol Edition. You can view his interview below.
Editor’s note: Marine Glisovic is the senior political reporter for KATV.