Stand Your Ground: Home Edition

WESTFIELD – State Rep. Donald Humason (R-Westfield) is a co-sponsor of the so-called stand your ground bill that Gov. Deval Patrick has vowed to veto.
State Sen. Stephen Brewer has sponsored the bill for the past five years. The Barre Democrat said his main goal is to protect individuals who defend themselves in public from criminal and civil penalties.
The bill is getting a lot of attention because of the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida. A law in Florida is similar to the stand your ground law.
Critics of “stand your ground” laws say they encourage the use of deadly force when it could be avoided.
They point to the case of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death after an encounter with 28-year-old George Zimmerman in the central Florida town of Sanford. Zimmerman told police he was attacked by Martin, who was not armed, and shot him in self-defense. Zimmerman has not been arrested.
Gun control activist John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, said the law in Florida and similar laws in other states encourage a “shoot first and ask questions later” mentality.
“Stand your ground is an excuse to kill anyone you don’t like and not be held responsible,” he said. “It is horrific public policy. It is racist based public policy.”
Humason said not true, citing an example that took place last year when a man was visiting someone at a Boston hospital and came across a nurse being assaulted by a man. The man tried to stop the attempted rape and ended up shooting the assailant and was arrested for shooting him.
“The bill filed would protect people like him who use a legal (gun) to defend themselves or somebody else,” said Humason. “This would also prevent someone from being civilly sued.”
Massachusetts residents already have the right to defend themselves if they’re attacked inside their homes.
“What I was focusing on when I put my name on the bill was the civil part of it,” Brewer said. “I have no interest in the commonwealth resorting to vigilante justice.”
Patrick said he doesn’t see a need for the bill.
“It won’t get past my desk,” Patrick said last Thursday on his monthly radio program on WTKK-FM.
Brewer said he filed the bill on behalf of the Gun Owners Action League.
Jim Wallace, the group’s executive director, said there’s no real recognition in state law of an individual’s right to defend himself outside their home.
“All we’re looking for is that if you are put into a situation that is untenable, where you have no other option, that you have the right to defend yourself,” he said.
The bill would allow an individual to use deadly force in a public area “if he or she acted in the reasonable belief that an assailant was about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon themselves or upon another person.”
The bill also states that “there shall be no duty on a person to retreat from any place that they have a right to be” and “no person who has committed an act of lawful defense … shall be held liable in an action for damages for death or injuries to an assailant.”
State Rep. Nick Boldyga (R-Southwick)  is also a co-sponsor of the bill.
“Criminals are not applying for gun licenses, criminals are not legally buying or carrying guns and criminals are surely not retreating before they attack or murder innocent people,” said Boldyga. “It seems these days criminals have more rights than law-abiding citizens. As a former police officer, I believe people should have the right to defend themselves without having to ‘retreat first’. This bill will protect people and save lives.”
Humason said the bill really speaks to the second amendment.
“It is part of the Constitution,” he said. “It’s the second amendment for a reason. If it were not for the second amendment, the other amendments would not exist.”
Humason, a legal gun owner himself, said people he knows who are legal gun owners are “very responsible with their firearms.”
The bill is currently before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary but isn’t expected to pass.
“I don’t have any false hope that it will emerge,” Brewer said.
Humason also said he does not think it will come out of committee.
“This legislation is more friendly to the second amendment,” said Humason. “It has evolved over the years. I think it would have a good chance if it came out of committee, but I don’t think it will.”

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