Democrats Propose Legislation Withholding Federal Funds From States With “Stand Your Ground” Laws

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Democrats blame the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida on that state’s so-called “stand your ground” self defense policy, and have all but indicted the American Legislative Exchange Council alongside George Zimmerman as co-conspirators for advocating for the policy in dozens of states around the country.

There is some question about whether or not the “stand your ground” policy is even applicable in the Martin/Zimmerman case. According to Zimmerman, he was on his back and being attacked when he shot Martin. If that’s true, then he couldn’t have retreated, which means that laws applying to the duty to retreat wouldn’t apply.

But no matter. Democrats want to cut off federal funding for states with “stand your ground” policies and have proposed legislation in the House to do it.

House Democrats said Tuesday they will offer an amendment to push to overturn stand-your-ground self-defense laws in states like Florida.

The amendment, which would withhold some grants from states that have such laws, will come as part of the House’s debate on the Commerce Department spending bill.

“‘Shoot-first’ laws have already cost too many lives. In Florida alone, deaths due to self-defense have tripled since the law was enacted. Federal money shouldn’t be spent supporting states with laws that endanger their own people,” said Reps. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the two Democrats who are offering the legislation. “This is no different than withholding transportation funds from states that don’t enforce seat-belt laws.”

The Democrats are right in that the federal government has certainly used federal funding to undermine state sovereignty in the past. That being said, if this were to be successful, it could open a new front in the gun control laws.

American attitudes about guns have changed over the last few decades, with citizens become more approving of individual gun ownership. The Supreme Court, too, has finally upheld the individual right to gun ownership, but states are extremely vulnerable when it comes to federal funding.

The federal government could lure states into more restrictive self-defense and gun policy by manipulating federal funding. Which is yet another argument for smaller federal government. The more dependent the states are on the federal government, the less power the state’s have to govern locally.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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