Child's Shooting Death Used Against Self-Defense Bill

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - A gun control group is blasting the Michigan Legislature for its "amazingly vulgar display of bad timing."

Michigan's Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing next Tuesday, Feb. 21, on a bill that would allow people to use deadly force in public if they feel threatened.

The announcement of the hearing date came on Thursday, the day after an eight-year-old Detroit child died when someone fired bullets into his house during a gunfight outside.

"It makes me sick to my stomach that Michigan, a reasonable state full of reasonable people, would even hold a hearing on this horrible piece of legislation," said Sarah Brady of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "And to take it up right after the death of a child is absolutely appalling."

"We are urging the Legislature to reject this bill totally and forever," said Shikha Hamilton, president of the Michigan Million Mom March Chapters of the Brady Campaign. "To even consider this bill is ridiculous. People -- and children -- are dying in Detroit. If this bill passes, we are all a little more likely to become innocent bystanders."

The Brady Campaign calls SB 1046 the "Shoot First" bill, but Second Amendment supporters call it the "Stand Your Ground" bill or the "Castle Doctrine."

The bill is similar to one passed in Florida last year.

The Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners warned its members that the Brady Campaign is taking "cheap shots" at the bill, "by using the blood of an 8 year old [who] was shot in Detroit as a result of an ongoing turf war between two rival gangs."

Among other things, the bill in question will "clarify the rights and duties of self-defense," MCRGO said.

The bill specifically says that law-abiding people who are attacked in places where they have a right to be have "no duty to retreat." They have the right to "stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force," if the person deems it necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm or to prevent the commission of a "forcible felony."

Gun control advocates argue that the bill will give people involved in violent clashes an excuse to kill -- and empower the most aggressive people, who will use self-defense as an excuse to end arguments in gunfire.

The Brady Campaign noted that in Florida, the law is being cited as a defense for a tow truck operator who killed the angry owner of a car he had just towed on Jan. 8.

Although the tow truck driver claimed self-defense in the shooting, authorities concluded otherwise: The Tampa Tribune reported on Feb. 4 that the tow truck driver is now in jail, charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and shooting into an occupied vehicle.

"America's police officers undergo months of intensive training to learn the judicious use of deadly force in a public setting," the Brady Campaign also argued.

"They learn...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," the Brady Campaign concluded.

But supporters believe bills like the one in Michigan will act as crime deterrents.

South Dakota, Georgia and Arizona are among the states now considering "Castle Doctrine" bills of their own.

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