In a session that's been heavily punctuated by the antics of the die-hard, open-carrying Second Amendment crowd, Houston State Rep. Garnet Coleman wants to tighten the law governing when Texans can legally shoot to kill in self-defense.
Needless to say, it will be an uphill battle.
Yesterday, Coleman filed House Bill 1627, which would repeal a "Stand Your Ground" provision Texas lawmakers passed in 2007 expanding when Texans can use deadly force. Ever since it passed, Texans have essentially been allowed to resort to deadly force as a first option if they claim they were sufficiently afraid. The "Stand Your Ground" provision made it so that there's no so-called "duty to retreat" when a person has the "right to be present at the location where the force is used."
Coleman wants to limit that no-retreat right to people who are inside their homes or on their property -- essentially the heart of the state's "Castle Doctrine" that passed in the 1990s before "Stand Your Ground" expanded the law. Becoming a "Stand Your Ground" state, Coleman insists, has only exacerbated underlying racial tensions and has given white citizens carte blanche to shoot minorities -- particularly young black men -- under the pretext of self-defense. In an op-ed that accompanied the filing of his bill, Coleman wrote that people of color "have learned early on that people are afraid of us and almost always irrationally so. Unfortunately, we live in a state that allows and even encourages people to act upon that fear -- with deadly consequences."
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Coleman says the current law "sanctions the targeting of young black men." The Chron quoted Coleman speaking at a press conference Thursday saying the law had effectively "legalized lynching."
"We already deal with the day-to-day, default criminalization that makes being black a dangerous prospect," Coleman wrote in his op-ed. "[T]he 'Stand Your Ground' law compounds the problem by giving permission to those who would kill us on the basis of prejudice alone."
Back in 2007, Coleman was only one of 13 House members to vote against the law. He's pointed to a Texas A&M study that noted a 7 to 9 year increase in homicides in states that have similarly expanded the right to use deadly force (roughly 600 additional homicides every year, according to the study). This session marks the second time Coleman has filed a bill to repeal the "Stand Your Ground" law.
Given the cadre of activists and protesters calling for open-carry and campus-carry, Coleman's bill is clearly the longest of long-shots this session. With so many lawmakers hoping to expand where people can carry guns, it's unlikely they're itching to limit when people can actually use them.