A proposed “Stand-Your-Ground” bill crashed out of the Arkansas House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in a three-hour debate which involved more than 20 dissenting statements against Senate Bill (SB) 24, which had passed the state senate in a 27-7 vote in mid-January.
SB24, sponsored by Sen. Bob Ballinger and Rep. Aaron Pilkington, would remove the “duty to retreat” clause from the state’s legal code having to do with using or threatening to use physical or deadly force.
Ballinger and Pilkington’s presentation for approving SB24 centered on the fact that other states with similar gun laws as Arkansas have passed “stand-your-ground” legislation like SB24 and the suggestion that Arkansans wanted SB24 to pass.
“Since 2019, [SB24] has been dogged by misrepresentation and lies,” Pilkington said. “However, [it] is clear a majority of voters in Arkansas see through that and want [SB24].”
Some Judiciary Committee members, however, pushed back on the sponsors’ assertion that Arkansas voters wanted “stand-your-ground” laws.
“I don’t think the data is clear [enough to suggest Arkansans want SB24],” Rep. Nicole Clowney, a Democrat from Fayetteville said. “A poll from 2020 showed that over 50 percent of Arkansas voters want no change in [state] gun laws. I think we need to be careful about making broad generalizations about [what voters want].”
A three-hour debate ensued at the committee meeting with members of the public present speaking overwhelmingly in opposition to SB24. Only one speaker spoke in favor of the stand-your-ground legislation.
In a vote at the end of the bill’s presentation, members of the Judiciary Committee voted to deny approval of the bill. Despite the seeming victory for those in opposition to SB24, Pilkington and Ballinger plan to continue to push ahead with the bill, with or without committee support.
Another controversial bill, House Bill (HB) 1112, passed the House on Tuesday in a mostly party-line vote at 75-20. If passed in the Senate, HB1112 would further make changes to Arkansas’ voter identification laws and not allow a voter to sign a sworn statement affirming their identity on Election Day. Instead, voters who don’t display identification before voting would have to show identification later, or risk their ballot not being counted.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas released a statement on Monday condemning HB1112, which is sponsored by Rep. Mark Lowery.