Opposing “Stand Your Ground”
The City Council isn’t the only Springfield group to oppose a bill that would expand the state’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law—the local NAACP branch has also voiced its opposition, arguing the proposed law would cause more harm than good.
At their May 7 meeting, city councilors voted, 11 to 1, for a non-binding resolution calling on the state Legislature to vote down the bill, sponsored by state Sen. Stephen Brewer (D-Barre.) Brewer’s bill would expand the so-called “castle doctrine,” which affirms a person’s right to use deadly force against an intruder in his or her home. Under the proposal, that right would be extended to cover any public place the person has a right to be.
The City Council resolution was sponsored by Council President Jimmy Ferrera. At-large Councilor Tim Rooke cast the sole “no” vote.
The Council’s opposition to Brewer’s bill is shared by the city’s NAACP branch, which describes the proposal as a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach and says existing laws already protect a person’s right to self defense.
“What is known as the ‘Castle Doctrine’ need not be expanded to the public sphere as we should be encouraging non-violence and the de-escalation of conflicts when a safe retreat can be made,” the Rev. Talbert Swan II, branch president, wrote in a public letter to state Rep. Angelo Puppolo (D-Springfield) urging Puppolo to withdraw his support of the bill. “Why is there a need to change a law for which no real problem can be clearly identified and articulated? To pass this legislation is unwise and reckless, especially when it overturns clear, stable, and safety-promoting laws already on the books.”
The bill, Swan continued, wouldn’t increase public safety, but instead would put the public at greater risk. “If passed, this legislation will increase the danger to all Massachusetts residents as it encourages the escalation of violence in the face of a conflict, rather than de-escalation. Shooting first and asking questions later will not make any resident safer,” he wrote. “The far-reaching effect of this proposed legislation will not be limited to gun violence. Assaultive conduct of all kinds will be more difficult to prevent and to prosecute. Domestic abuse will be affected as this legislation will provide the abuser with a ready defense and will increase in-home violence, all to the detriment of the victims who are primarily women and children.”