KANSAS CITY, Mo. --- Missouri State Representative Randy Dunn, (D) 23rd District, wants to make it harder for those who kill another person to use the Stand Your Ground defense to be acquitted of homicide charges. In House Bill 1940, Rep. Dunn proposes three things: anyone faced with a threat must first attempt to retreat; it prohibits people from having automatic immunity if they claim Stand Your Ground; and it requires the defendant to prove they had no other option than to use deadly force.
“I think as a state, we should be encouraging people to find peaceful resolutions rather than going to violence,” Rep. Dunn said.
Dunn said the courts have struggled to apply the Stand Your Ground law because the defendant must prove there was an imminent threat. But what is an imminent threat?
“There’s a lot of unclarity with those laws,” Rep. Dunn said. “That really opens the gate for a lot of interpretation as to exactly what does that threat mean, and it often leaves people to shoot first and ask questions later. In addition to that, they cause a lot of confusion for the courts, for the jurors and even the judges when adjudicating these types of cases.”
Rep. Dunn points to the results of a 2013 study conducted by Texas A&M in collaboration with the Urban Institute’s Policy Center and PBS. Researchers analyzed more than 43,500 homicide cases by race in states with Stand Your Ground laws versus those without them. The study discovered that whites who killed people of color and then used the Stand Your Ground defense were 350 percent more likely to be found justified in the use of deadly force.
Rep. Dunn says race was not a factor in his decision to file this bill though he believes it should be talked about in the Stand Your Ground conversation. More than anything, he wants people to avoid violence if possible.
“If there is any way to remove yourself from that situation without having to bring harm to that person and your life is, in that instant, not in imminent threat, I think you should try to retreat,” Rep. Dunn said. “If that person continues to try to come after you, you have every right to defend yourself and your home.”
Rep. Dunn said as a child, a burglar broke into his family’s home but left when his parents confronted him. Even though it traumatized him, he believes most people who break into homes are not looking to hurt the residents inside. And he doesn’t want to see anyone die unnecessarily.
“I firmly believe in a person’s right to be able to defend themselves, defend their home and defend their family,” Rep. Dunn said, “but if there’s a way to get out of that situation without having to lead to violence, that’s what I would rather see happen.”
HB 1940 is currently awaiting assignment to committee, where it will be discussed before possibly being sent back to the House for debate.