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Attorney General Eric Holder wants states to reconsider their "Stand Your Ground" laws after public outcry over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Speaking before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Orlando on Tuesday, Holder called for the nation to "question laws that senselessly expand the concept self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods," reports Reuters.
Although the Attorney General has limited powers when it comes to state laws, a surge of public opinion may lead to states changing the "Stand Your Ground" provisions in their self-defense laws.
Holder: Laws 'Undermine Public Safety'
Holder spoke at length about the various states which have "Stand Your Ground" laws similar to Florida's and called for those jurisdictions to reconsider their laws.
At their core, these laws serve to "undermine public safety" and possibly encourage "violent situations to escalate in public" leading to the loss of innocent lives, Holder said.
The Attorney General isn't alone in his thinking, as several criminal studies conducted since the 2005 passage of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law have suggested such laws may fuel crime, not dissuade it.
NRA Fires Back
Not known for keeping silent on issues involving laws and guns, the National Rifle Association (NRA) responded to Holder's speech by asserting that he doesn't understand self-defense.
The NRA's Executive Director Chris Cox explained that "self-defense is not a concept, it's a fundamental human right," one which he believes is mischaracterized as blaming victims in order to support a political agenda, reports Politico.
While self-defense is certainly a storied common law concept with a rich history, couching it as a fundamental right speaks closely to justifications for the right to own and carry firearms as a means of self-defense.
To be clear, the doctrine of self-defense, the affirmative defense that completely protects a defendant from criminal liability, would still exist without "Stand Your Ground" laws.
While Holder's impassioned plea is encouraging to critcs of these laws, state legislatures are under no obligation from the federal government to change them.
Meantime, Holder has been urged by more than 800,000 persons in an online NAACP petition to file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, reports Reuters.