South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law, which provides immunity to victims who use deadly force to protect themselves, has a major flaw, and lawmakers are looking to remedy it.
House members are considering a bill that would that would expand the immunity given to people under South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law to victims who point their gun at an attacker, but don’t pull the trigger.
Under current state law, a victim can use deadly force against an attacker when “a person is presumed to have a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to himself or another person.”
S.C. Rep. Mandy Kimmons, the bill’s primary sponsor, said the state’s current law only gives people who respond to attacks by using deadly force protection from prosecution. It does not extend to people who only pull out their gun and point it at their attacker to scare them away.
“You shouldn’t have to shoot someone to get immunity,” the Dorchester Republican said.
Her bill, which has the support 16 other sponsors, would close that loophole.
“If you’re in a situation where you pulled out your gun … and you didn’t pull the trigger, then this would protect you,” Kimmons said.
Kimmons called her bill “not controversial” and said she expects it to receive enough support as it moves through the House.
Kimmons did introduce a similar bill during a previous legislative session, but that bill did not make it out of committee. During a subcommittee meeting Wednesday, lawmakers adjourned debate on the bill, but said they wanted to revisit it once they’d created a few amendments for it.
The bill already has some opponents.
The South Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action, a nationwide volunteer advocacy group that champions legislation to cut down on gun violence, took a stance against it. Jackie Shelly, a volunteer with the group, called the bill “dangerous.”
“It would give people carte blanche to escalate situations to potentially deadly ones by brandishing firearms whenever they feel threatened, which is the last thing we need,” Shelley said.
South Carolina’s “stand your ground” laws have changed throughout the years.
The state’s “castle doctrine” gives individuals the right to use deadly force to defend themselves on their property, including their homes. That right to defend oneself with deadly force was expanded in 2006 to include places outside of the home that individuals have a right to be in where they may be confronted by an attacker.
Unlike some other states, South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law doesn’t require a duty to retreat; in other words, victims aren’t required to try to get away from the attackers before resorting to deadly force to be protected from prosecution.
“Stand your ground” laws have been considered controversial throughout the years, especially after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old who was shot and killed in Florida by George Zimmerman, a man who was acting as a self-appointed community watchman. Though Zimmerman’s lawyer did not discuss Florida’s stand your ground law during his trial, the jury did discuss the law during deliberation. They ultimately found Zimmerman not guilty.
This bill is one of a number of gun-related bills considered by the Legislature this year.
Reinforced by seats won during the November election, South Carolina Republicans have set their eyes on a number of bills that would expand gun rights. The House approved two such bills already this session: one that would allow those with concealed carry permits to openly carry their firearms and a bill that would allow anyone, regardless of whether they had a permit, to openly carry.