Alabama’s “stand your ground” law was born from hyper-aggressive legislation that reeked of National Rifle Association influence and pandering from Republican lawmakers. Expanding it is an avoidable waste of time.
That said, it’s no surprise that GOP members of the state House of Representatives want churches to be added to Alabama’s law. On Thursday, the House approved a bill, by a 40-16 vote, that would give protection to anyone who uses deadly force to protect himself or others in a church.
Such an expansion pushes all the right buttons for state Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, and his GOP colleagues: guns, church and Second Amendment rights. That two of the worst mass shootings in recent American history, one in Charleston, S.C., and another in Sutherland Springs, Texas, happened in churches isn’t a point lost on anyone. Likewise, no one can miss the symbolism of the House’s debate of Greer’s bill just one day after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
Problem is, Alabamians who go to church don’t need added legal protection under the state’s “stand your ground” law, which says: “A person who is justified under subsection (a) in using physical force, including deadly physical force, and who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and is in any place where he or she has the right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground.”
Churches already qualify as “any place where he or she has the right be.”
“The idea in Alabama that you would need a law that would create protection for you to be able to use deadly force to protect yourself in a church is a farce,” said Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa.
What’s worse, the House’s bill targets the fallacious side of lawmakers’ role in the nation’s gun discussion. The GOP’s familiar script calls for arming a militia of laymen — teachers and coaches in schools, worshipers and pastors in churches — to meet any threat. The better option is for the state Legislature and federal government to limit convicted felons and the mentally ill from legally buying weapons and stockpiling ammunition, two of the main factors in most mass shootings. Alabama needs leadership instead of political pandering.