CHICAGO - This past week President Obama publicly urged the reexamination of state self-defense laws (see remarks below). However, nine years ago then-State Sen. Barack Obama actually co-sponsored a bill that strengthened Illinois' 1961 "stand your ground" law.
The Obama-sponsored bill (SB 2386) enlarged the state's 1961 law by shielding the person who was attacked from being sued in civil court by perpetrators or their estates when a "stand your ground" defense is used in protecting his or her person, dwelling or other property.
The bill unanimously passed the Democrat-controlled Illinois Senate on March 25, 2004 with only one comment, and passed the Democrat-controlled Illinois House in May 2004 with only two votes in opposition. Then-Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) signed it into law.
As U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) prepares to hold Senate hearings in September to scrutinize states' self-defense laws, he may wish to consider his home state's public policy, which his former colleague and fellow Illinoisan - President Obama - helped craft.
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This past Friday when discussing the George Zimmerman case, President Obama suggested revisiting state "stand your ground laws" to determine whether the laws encouraged altercations rather than avoiding them, a position he didn't raise while a state senator.
Remarks from President Obama:
"Along the same lines, I think it may be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations, confrontations and tragedies as we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations," Obama said.
"I know that there's been commentary about the fact that stand your ground laws in Florida were not used as a defense of the case. On the other hand, if we're sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed has a right to use those firearms even if there's a way for them to exit from the situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we'd like to see?" he asked White House Press reporters.
"And for those who resist that idea that we should think about these stand your ground laws, I just have to ask these people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk, and do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened?" Obama said.
"And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws."