WASHINGTON (AP) — Trayvon Martin‘s mother told a panel of senators Tuesday that state stand your ground self-defense laws do not work and must be amended, reviving the politically charged gun control issue a year ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
But little besides politics emerged from the session, held in the Senate’s made-for-television hearing room. Democrats who hold majority power in the Senate and are trying to keep it supported Sybrina Fulton’s call.
“This law is an invitation for confrontation,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chaired the session.
Republicans, led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, said the matter should be left to the states that passed the laws.
“The states are doing quite well…without our interference,” Rep. Louie Gohmert testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Said Cruz: “This is not about politicking. This is not about inflaming racial tensions. This is about the right of everyone to protect themselves and protect their families.” Cruz made reference to statistics which, he said, show that blacks cite stand your ground laws at least as often as whites.
Race and politics were unmistakably woven into the event and in the broader public policy debate. There’s little willingness in Congress to weigh in on the laws of 22 states that have some form of the policy. These laws generally cancel a person’s duty to retreat in the face of a serious physical attack.
Members of Congress are busily engaged in their re-election efforts for next year’s midterms, with 35 seats at stake in the Senate, all 435 seats in the GOP-controlled House and the majorities of both chambers hanging in the balance. Gun control is a politically divisive issue, more so in the wake of mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., the Washington Navy Yard and more.
The 2012 shooting death of Martin, 17 and unarmed, and the acquittal this year of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman stirred racial tensions and sparked debate over stand your ground laws in Florida and at least 21 other states.