Despite the increasing violence that Black people have faced in recent years, some House representatives thought it was a good idea to vote for a bill to amend Utah’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The House Law Enforcement Committee approved HB129 by a 7-3 vote on Wednesday, giving way for the full House to possibly back a controversial law that came to national light when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal of a murder conviction spurred the Black Lives Matter Movement into formation nearly six years ago. The outcry and rage rallied folks into what has been one of the hardest fights for the protection of Black and Brown bodies. Ignoring that fight, House members have supported the law that allows people to use deadly force, without retreating, and get away with it. Essentially, this measure can be used as a weapon to bolster the fires of Black fear, as some lawmakers have noted, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“We’ve been conditioned to fear, to question, to distrust certain individuals with certain physical appearances…. The last thing we need is this bill passing and allowing them [fearful people] … to take matters into their own hands,” Margarita Satini, chairwoman of the Utah Pacific Islanders Engagement Coalition, said.
The bill “will disproportionately affect people of color,” Satini added.
Another lawmaker understood the truth of the matter as well. “I’m outraged,” said Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, the only black member of the Legislature which only three Democrats on the committee voted against the bill. Martin “was targeted” because of his looks, Hollins added, and the bill could spur similar actions against “people in the district that [she] represent[s].”
If the amendment is passed, the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, legal since the 1990s, will now clarify concerns raised by prosecutors or in civil cases about whether people who defended themselves could have retreated, Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, the bill’s sponsor, said. The House passed a previous version of the bill last year, but it was put on the back burner by a Senate committee, the Standard-Examiner reported.
Expectedly, the Utah Association of Police Chiefs supported the latest bill.