A Baltimore County lawmaker said Thursday that he plans to introduce legislation in the General Assembly that would bring to Maryland the “stand your ground” legal doctrine that became a central part of the debate over Florida’s Trayvon Martin case.
Critics of the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case contend Florida’s “stand your ground” law may have helped escalate the conflict when George Zimmerman came across Trayvon, an unarmed 17-year-old African American, while Zimmerman was patrolling his neighborhood. In the struggle that followed, Zimmerman shot Trayvon fatally.
Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges after claiming self-defense. While he did not formally raise “stand your ground” as a defense, the central premise of the law was part of the instructions to the jury.
McDonough said Maryland is one of a minority of states with a duty to retreat.
“The duty to retreat is the weakest form of protection for crime victims and their families,” he said. “Maryland citizens are being placed in harm’s way in a state where assault and violent crime are numerous.”
The “stand your ground” concept is widely supported by gun rights advocates but its chance of winning the support of the Democratic-dominated Maryland legislature are all but nonexistent. McDonough’s sponsorship is not a good sign for its prospects. The conservative delegate has seen few of his legislative proposals become law since he was elected in 2002.
Del. Kathleen Dumais, vice chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, said its passage is unlikely.
“Obviously we would give it a fair hearing, as we do every bill, but I don’t think it’s something that would make it through the General Assembly,” she said.
Dumais, a Montgomery County Democrat who led the House fight for Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun restriction legislation last session, said she sees no reason adopt “stand your ground.”
“I think it encourages people to put themselves in peril when there are other options and I don’t think there’s a need for a change,” she said.