Holder: Stand-your-ground laws 'undermine public safety'

July 16, 2013 at 5:44 PM
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ORLANDO, Fla., July 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said stand-your-ground laws "senselessly expand" self-defense laws and "sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods."

Holder, addressing the NAACP annual convention in Orlando, Fla., discussed stand-your-ground laws, which have frequently been cited in public debate about neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

A Florida jury Saturday found Zimmerman not guilty in a trial in which Zimmerman's lawyers did not invoke the law as a defense, The Hill reported.

"Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation's attention," Holder told the NAACP convention, "it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods."

Holder said stand-your-ground laws "try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if -- and the 'if' is important -- no safe retreat is available."

He said such laws have "victimized too many who are innocent."

"By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety," he said.

"It is our collective obligation -- we must stand our ground -- to ensure that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent," Holder said.

The Department of Justice has said it is reviewing evidence in the trial and may consider bringing civil rights violation charges against Zimmerman.

He said the department will "act in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law."

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