Stand Your Ground law in Nevada was proposed by a Democrat and pushed by Democrats

Unlike Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and other similar state statutes pushed by Republicans, Nevada’s version was proposed by a Democratic speaker, endorsed by almost every Democrat and passed by a Democratically controlled Legislature.

As Democrats who were there in 2011 try to distinguish it from Florida’s law and as that session’s majority leader, now-Rep. Steven Horsford, says states should reevaluate such statutes, a little history is in order.

Florida, governed by Jeb Bush and with a speaker named Marco Rubio, passed its law in 2005, with language lifted from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council and pushed by the National Rifle Association. Nevada didn’t pass its law until six years later, one of nearly two dozen states that now have one.

There are differences in the laws – Nevada did not cut and paste the ALEC/NRA language – but the practical effect is the same: If you are somewhere you are supposed to be and are attacked, you can use deadly force to defend yourself.

The key language:

Florida: A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Nevada: A person is not required to retreat before using deadly force as provided in subsection 1 if the person:

 (a) Is not the original aggressor;

(b) Has a right to be present at the location where deadly force is used; and  

(c) Is not actively engaged in conduct in furtherance of criminal activity at the time deadly force is used.

The Nevada law was proposed in 2011 by Speaker John Oceguera, who was preparing to run for Congress and was trying to burnish his NRA bonafides, especially as colleague and potential primary foe John Lee was competing with him for Top Gun Guy in Carson City.

The bill was not controversial in gun-happy Nevada, where the NRA has spread around a lot of money and where firearms issues almost always bridge the partisan divide. (That changed a bit in 2013 when campus-carry and background check bills were quite partisan.)

AB 321 had many co-sponsors, was seen as merely codifying a Supreme Court decision. Even the ACLU was not opposed.

Oceguera offered a simple one-page presentation for a one-page bill. “It just makes sense that if someone attacks you, you have a right to defend yourself,” his presentation said. “This bill simply recognizes and codifies that right.”

Those who testified in the Assembly for the bill included the Independent American Party and law enforcement. A week later, with little discussion and a motion to pass by liberal Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, the bill passed out of the judiciary panel.

By the way, the NRA sent a letter to legislators (attached here) in which the group argued that despite the high court’s decision, “memorializing this language into the Nevada Revised Statutes is a major step in the right direction for citizens of the Silver State.” (Another firearms group, Stillwater, also sent a letter, attached here.)

Three weeks later in the Senate, the Judiciary Committee hearing lasted a few moments and three days later, with a motion by Minority Leader Mike McGinness, itthe bill flew out of committee.

In neither house were any significant remarks made on the floor. Only three lawmakers voted no on the bill, all in the Assembly – Democrats Peggy Pierce, Maggie Carlton and Richard Carrillo.

The practical impact of the law is almost identical to Florida’s.

If Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were in Green Valley and Martin threw a punch at Zimmerman and the neighborhood watcher responded with deadly force, that would be legal – just as it is in Florida and just as thr reverse would have been true if Martin had the gun and Zimmerman assaulted him. If Zimmerman were not the initial aggressor, he would have had every right to use his gun in either state.

I understand the defensiveness of Democrats now, especially African-American lawmakers such as Horsford, William Horne and Kelvin Atkinson who supported the bill but undoubtedly have been deeply affected by the Zimmerman case. All three of those men surely have experienced what the president said he experienced -- and all three have children.

So be it. Horsford may want the law reviewed, but he won’t be there in Carson City to do it, nor will Horne.

So the Democrats who pushed this bill through just two years ago either still agree with the concept or they don’t. Or they are just reacting to an emotionally charged national story.

I guess we’ll find out in 2015.


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