National Rifle Association Proud Of Its Role In Enacting “Kill At Will” Law

During today's meeting of a Florida taskforce that is investigating the “Kill At Will” law implicated in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, National Rifle Association representative Marion Hammer said that the NRA was “proud to have been a part of the process” in enacting the law in 2005.

We believe the law is doing what the legislature intended. It is protecting the rights of people who defend themselves against attackers and intruders. The NRA supported this law. We are proud to have been a part of the process. We are proud to say we worked with legislators from both sides of the aisle to protect self-defense rights. And although there may be other bodies of law that do not go far enough to protect the innocent and the righteous, we don't see any basic need to change the premise of this law.

Hammer, who in closing stated that the NRA “see[s] the law as protecting freedom,” served as president of the National Rifle Association between 1995 and 1998 and remains the organization's top lobbyist in Florida. She is hardly the first member of National Rifle Association leadership to express full-throated support for “Kill At Will.” In April, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox told attendees of the NRA's annual meeting that despite “post-media hysteria” in the weeks following Trayvon Martin's death the gun rights organization “will defend those laws.” At the same annual gathering, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed controversy surrounding the law, called “Stand Your Ground” by its proponents, on the national news media.

Hammer previously acknowledged in an interview with Media Matters that the NRA helped draft the law and “support[ed] it through the process.” This account was confirmed by Florida Today reporter Paul Flemming who stated, “There is no doubt about it. Marion Hammer, the NRA lobbyist here, former president of the NRA wrote the legislation and she would tell you so.”

The NRA didn't limit its “Kill At Will” legislative efforts to Florida. With the help of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the NRA pushed model “Kill At Will” legislation nationwide, with at least 25 states enacting versions of the law since 2005.

The gun rights organization didn't temper its support for the law in the wake of Martin's death. On the one month anniversary of the fatal shooting, a NRA representative lobbied in favor of “Kill At Will” at the Alaska statehouse. ALEC, however, disbanded the NRA-chaired Public Safety and Elections task force, the group responsible for the spread of “Kill At Will,” after controversy surrounding the law caused a number of corporate sponsors to cut ties with the right-wing model legislation organization.

In spite of the NRA's defense of the law as a means of “protecting freedom,” a number of investigations into “Kill At Will” have reached troubling conclusions. A June 3 Tampa Bay Times analysis of “Kill At Will” cases found that in nearly one third of such cases individuals “initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim -- and still went free.”

People often go free under “stand your ground” in cases that seem to make a mockery of what lawmakers intended. One man killed two unarmed people and walked out of jail. Another shot a man as he lay on the ground. Others went free after shooting their victims in the back. In nearly a third of the cases the Times analyzed, defendants initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim -- and still went free. 

In a July 22 survey, the Times also found that about one third of those who claimed self-defense under “Kill At Will” had previously been accused of a violent crime. Additionally, more than one third of “Kill At Will” defendants had been arrested for illegally carrying or threatening someone with a weapon.

While the NRA may believe that “Kill At Will” is “doing what the legislature intended,” a June study conducted by Texas A&M University economics professor Mark Hoekstra concluded that states that passed such laws saw an increase in the incidence of homicides.