Activist Questions “Stand Your Ground” Laws

Houston congressman says Texas' Castle Doctrine also should be repealed because it has been extended beyond home

A Houston congressman, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a group of ministers on Thursday called for the end of Stand Your Ground laws across the country.

George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Florida man neighborhood watch volunteer, was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman told authorities he shot Martin in self-defense.

Florida's so-called "stand your ground" law gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight. Zimmerman's attorney has said his client would invoke the law, and could ask a judge to drop the case at a pretrial hearing before it reaches a jury.

"These Stand Your Ground laws, these Castle laws are incentives for violence, incentives for vigilantism," Jackson said.

Texas' Castle Doctrine allows for deadly force as long as the victim is within one's home or property.

U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said that the group is also calling for a repeal of the Castle Doctrine in Texas, saying the doctrine has been extended beyond the home, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"So while they may not call it Stand Your Ground, the essence of what's being done is the very same thing, and it's time for us to pull down Stand Your Ground. It's time for us to make Castle what it has traditionally been -- a person's home," the newspaper quoted Green as saying.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said that Texas' law is clear while Florida's Stand Your Ground law applies to people feeling physically threatened in almost any environment.

"In Dallas County, if someone is trying to kick in your door, we believe that you have a right to defend yourself and use deadly force," Watkins said.

There is no widespread call in Texas to repeal the Castle Doctrine.

"We've had one high-profile problem, but how many other problems have we had?" said Chuck Payne, of Ray's Sporting Goods. "So are we going to change everything for one problem?"

Payne, a gun advocate, said self-defense is a basic right. He said he is not opposed to a review of Texas' law to ensure it is applied properly.

"If some citizens want to form a committee look at the law and then if they find flaws with it, bring it up to the lawmakers, and say, 'We found these flaws. Do you want to change them?'" he said.

NBC 5's Randy McIlwain contributed to this report.

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