LEXINGTON, Kentucky - February 27 - The Kentucky Million Mom March Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence released the following statement today on proposed gun legislation in Kentucky:
Last week, the Kentucky State House took a step in the wrong direction when they passed a horrible piece of legislation (HB 236) that could make Kentucky a much more dangerous place. If it passes the State Senate, this legislation would make it legal for a gun owner in Kentucky to shoot and kill another person whenever they feel threatened -- even in a public place.
The Shoot First law, known alternatively as the "make my day" law, made Florida a virtual laughingstock when it became law there last October, generating news coverage around the world suggesting that visitors might face risk.
"This bill will enable the most aggressive and paranoid individuals in Kentucky to use deadly force anywhere against a presumed assailant," said Sarah Brady of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "Passing the Shoot First law was a foolish mistake in Florida, and Kentucky is looking at repeating Florida's mistake."
"We are urging the State Senate to reject this dangerous solution to a nonexistent problem," said Nancy McKenney, co-president of the Kentucky Million Mom March Chapters of the Brady Campaign. "Don't let anyone tell you this is just a self-defense bill. This bill goes far beyond that."
The Shoot First bill was introduced in the Kentucky House as HB 236 and in the Senate as SB 52. It very closely tracks legislation pushed in Florida last year by the National Rifle Association that police leaders and prosecutors around the nation have derided as dangerous and unnecessary.
Proponents of this law argue that it is just a self-defense bill, but HB 236/SB 52 goes far beyond just protecting one's home. The Shoot First bill allows Kentuckians to use deadly force as a first resort to counter perceived threats, even in public, as long as they are in a place they have "a right to be" and they reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to prevent bodily harm.
Newspapers around the country have spoken out about the dangers of this legislation. The conservative Arizona Star newspaper called it "poorly thought out, unnecessary and potentially dangerous."
The Miami Herald said "people involved in violent clashes -- ranging from criminal activities to domestic disputes that escalate -- now have another justification for killing."
The Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote "under this broad law, a bar fight over a football game could legally end in gunfire and death if one of the combatants claimed to fear bodily harm. A gang member could legally shoot and kill a member of a rival gang, claiming he felt his life was threatened."
Supporters of the legislation claim it is necessary to guarantee that people can defend themselves. But there are no individuals in jail anywhere in the U.S. for acting in legitimate self-defense. The only individuals this legislation can conceivably benefit, therefore, are individuals who would otherwise be convicted of a crime. "This will make our jobs 10 times harder," said Randy Hillman of the Alabama District Attorney's Association. "It will confuse jurors in criminal trials and give criminals more of a defense."
Police leaders have expressed concern that the law will send a message of empowerment to the most aggressive individuals in society -- that rather than serve to defend people who use deadly force in a truly life-threatening situation, it will serve as an excuse to edgy individuals. The record so far bears this out: In its first Florida application, the law is being cited as a defense for a tow truck operator who killed the irate owner of a car he had just towed. "Everyone is apparently safer in Florida," wrote the Atlanta Journal Constitution editorial board, "now that there's one fewer illegal parker roaming the streets."
America's police officers undergo months of intensive training to learn the judicious use of deadly force in a public setting. They learn, through that training, that the use of deadly force in public is excruciatingly dangerous, and that innocent bystanders can easily be injured or killed.
These bills immediately deputize anyone with a weapon to take on a criminal in potentially crowded public settings. It's extraordinarily ill advised and irresponsible.