Yesterday, the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), whose chairmanship of that particular subcommittee was perhaps intended as some form of grim joke, held a hearing on the subject of Stand Your Ground laws. Durbin has been a vocal critic of such laws, and indeed of any laws protecting private gun ownership and armed self-defense. From the Los Angeles Times:
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chairman of the subcommittee, agreed that it was time for the laws "to be carefully reviewed and reconsidered."
"Whatever the motivation behind them, it's clear these laws often go too far in encouraging confrontations that escalate into deadly violence," Durbin said in his opening statement. "They're resulting in unnecessary tragedies and they are diminishing accountability under our justice system."
This hearing has been a long time coming, with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) having called for a federal "examination" of Stand Your Ground laws over a hear and a half ago. He made clear at the time that, like Durbin, he believes that such an examination should find nothing to like about Stand Your Ground:
Schumer said Sunday he thinks the laws should be re-evaluated and changed, and that he's hoping to see hearings surrounding the matter on Capitol Hill.
Even a nodding acquaintance with the Constitution would be sufficient to inform Schumer and Durbin that the federal government has no authority over any state's self-defense laws. That fact, after all, is one that even their fellow anti-gun Senate Democrat, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), remembers--at least when it does not suit her purposes to forget it. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) evidently shares Durbin's and Schumer's wish to require that people under attack be forced by law to run and hide, rather than stand their ground, but seems at least to know that any such change would have to come from the states, rather than Congress.
In fairness, it should be noted that an unnamed aide of Durbin's claims that the hearing is not intended to set the table for any new federal legislation to usurp the states' power to to set their own self-defense laws. From Roll Call:
A Senate hearing Tuesday on state “stand your ground” laws is likely to feature emotional testimony from the mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, but is not intended to lay the groundwork for federal legislation addressing such statutes, according to a Democratic aide.
"Well, then," one might ask, "why is the Senate holding hearings on the subject in the first place--what do these Senators intend to do?"
Instead, the hearing is meant to spark a “national debate on the impact of these laws,” said an aide to Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said [sic].
Ah--thank goodness. Just what we need: the Senate taking time out of its busy schedule to find new ways to divide the country in rancorous debate.
In reality, of course, if the gun-haters in Congress find any leverage they think might be exploited to force the states to repeal SYG laws, Tenth Amendment be damned, they will jump on it without hesitation, Durbin's aide's assurances notwithstanding. And states must Stand Their Ground against such usurpations.
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