Now that they have lost their fight in the legislature, Moms Demand Action are acting like old news is new to try to convince the public to ask the governor to veto HB 60.
The Moms have been trying for weeks to somebody, anybody, to agree with them that felons do not deserve to live. One of the Moms’ mavens, Melinda Ennis Roughton, has sought in vain to convince people that HB 60 “expands” self defense rights to felons, apparently believing that felons do not deserve to use a basic human right, the right to defend oneself. She found support in the most incredible place, the AJC, whose managing editor is one Bert Roughton (yes, they are husband and wife). The AJC reports today that a senate study “revealed” that under HB 60, felons can lawfully defend themselves. Of course, neither of the Roughtons speak in terms of “self defense.” They prefer the more (in their eyes) inflammatory “stand your ground.” The AJC’s story claims that even HB 60 supporters did not always know what the bill does, citing GCO’s Jerry Henry as saying the bill does nothing that is not already the law in other states.
The problem with the AJC article and the Roughton party line is that they have not bothered to address the fact that felons in all states have the right to defend themselves, and (horrors!) have no duty to retreat in most states. Such is the case in Georgia, and always has been the case in Georgia. It is not new. The AJC article would have readers believe the Sen. Bill Heath misstated the facts when he said HB 60 does not expand “stand your ground” for felons. In fact, Sen. Heath was correct. HB 60 does not expand the lack of a duty to retreat at all. The lack of such a duty already extends statewide to all people.
The confusion suffered by the Roughtons is that they do not seem to understand the difference between a defense against criminal charges and immunity from those charges. All people, including felons, have always had the right to defend themselves, and to claim self defense in a criminal trial against them. If this were not the case, state prison inmates would be obligated to submit to all manor of attacks, including rapes, beatings, and murder, just because the Moms don’t think they should have the right to fight back.
On the other hand, immunity from prosecution means a person cannot be made to stand trial in the first place (if, in this case, he lawfully defends himself). The current immunity statute limits application of immunity so that a person cannot claim it if he did not legally possess a weapon he used to defend himself. This means that a license holder who saw a crime taking place on a college campus and used a firearm to stop it could not claim immunity from prosecution, because he did not legally possess the firearm on a college campus. The person could, however, still claim self defense at a trial. And, yes, Moms, it also means a felon can never claim immunity when he uses a firearm in self defense, because he cannot legally possess a firearm.
The problem with this legal structure is that it costs the state a lot of money to determine if self defense was valid. The state can charge the self-defender with some crime (murder, aggravated assault, whatever fits the situation). In a different situation, the person could claim immunity and the court would have a hearing up front to determine if self defense was validly used. But, when the person cannot claim immunity, the state has to try the defender, who after the state rests can introduce evidence of the self defense and have the case thrown out. Meanwhile, though, the state just burned up several weeks of judicial resources that could have been used somewhere else. Only because the person cannot claim immunity.
So, what HB 60 does is allow people to claim immunity even if they did not legally possess the weapon at the time. If they did not legally use self defense, they still will be convicted. If they legally used self defense, they will not. Nothing changes. it just makes more efficient use of our resources.
And, notice that “stand your ground” has nothing to do with it? It still applies whether a person legally possessed a weapon or not, just as it always has.