DENVER – While politicians from both political parties have called for a review of so-called “stand your ground” laws in the wake of the Florida trial of George Zimmerman, the number of Americans who support such laws continues to outnumber those who oppose them, according to a recent public opinion survey.
When asked if they favored or opposed a “stand your ground” law in their home state, 45 percent of those surveyed said they favored having such a law in place, while 32 percent said they opposed such a law. Another 22 percent said they were unsure.
But the survey revealed a divide among respondents along race and gender lines.
Men favored “stand your ground” laws by a nearly 2-to-1 margin (56 percent to 30 percent), while women were evenly divided on the question – with 35 percent favoring such laws, 35 percent opposing them, and another 30 percent unsure.
Similarly, half of all white respondents – 50 percent – said they supported “stand your ground,” compared to just 29 percent who said they were opposed.
By comparison, two-thirds of black respondents – 67 percent – said they were against “stand your ground” laws, compared to just 13 percent who said they backed them.
Among those who did not identify themselves as either black or white, 47 percent, said they favored “stand your ground” laws – nearly double the 25 percent who said they were opposed.
Perhaps not surprisingly, respondents also split along political lines.
Republicans said they supported “stand your ground” laws by a wide margin, 72 percent to 16 percent, while Democrats opposed such laws by a 53 percent to 21 percent margin.
A plurality of political independents (49 percent) joined Republicans in backing “stand your ground” laws – roughly twice the number who said they were opposed to such laws (25 percent).
At least 22 states have Florida-style “stand your ground” laws in place, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The laws allow people to defend themselves in the face of a serious threat. In states without “stand your ground” laws, individuals are generally required to retreat when confronted with such a threat.
While Colorado doesn’t have a “stand your ground” law, it does have a self-defense law that provides civil immunity under certain circumstances, according to the NCSL. Additionally, Colorado has the “Make My Day” law, passed in 1985, that allows someone to use deadly force to defend their homes against intruders, whether the intruder is armed or not.
Zimmerman did not invoke the Florida law during his trial on murder charges in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin, but that hasn’t stopped politicians of both political parties from assailing the laws.
“I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the ‘stand your ground’ laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case,” President Obama said Friday. “On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?”
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), seemed to agree with Obama about the need to review “stand your ground” laws, telling CNN’s Candy Crowley over the weekend that states which have enacted such laws – including his home state of Arizona – should re-examine them.
“The ‘stand your ground’ law may be something that needs to be reviewed by the Florida legislature or any other legislature that has passed such legislation,” said McCain, who described the “stand your ground” law in Arizona as “very controversial.”
Others, like Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), disagreed, arguing that the rush to roll back state self-defense laws was little more than a veiled push for new firearms restrictions.
“It is not surprising that the president uses, it seems, every opportunity that he can to go after our Second Amendment right to bear arms,” Cruz said. “This president and this administration has a consistent disregard for the Bill of Rights.”
Supporters of “stand your ground” laws have disputed assertions that such laws negatively impact African-Americans, noting that many of those who have successfully invoked the law are black.
“[A]pproximately one third of Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ claims in fatal cases have been made by black defendants, and they have used the defense successfully 55 percent of the time, at the same rate as the population at large and at a higher rate than white defendants,” read a recent analysis published by the Daily Caller.
Senate hearings on the topic are expected in September.
The Rasmussen Reports national poll surveyed 1,000 adults between July 17 and July 18, and has a margin of error of + / – 3 percentage points.