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State News

July 23, 2013

Stand Your Ground? Verdict re-opens debate over Oklahoma law

Oklahoma City — It’s been seven years since the Oklahoma Legislature overwhelmingly passed a measure that expanded a person’s right to defend themselves with deadly force when threatened or attacked.

But a state lawmaker says it’s time to re-open public dialogue about the Stand Your Ground law and other legislation that has expanded gun rights in the state following the acquittal of a Florida man who was charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.

Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, said he plans to launch a legislative study in November to review Oklahoma’s Stand Your Ground and open carry laws. Shelton stopped short of saying he wants to repeal the statutes and said he will invite gun advocates as well as those who oppose the expansion of gun rights.

“I’m going into this with an open mind. I’m hoping to get people on both sides to sit down and have a conversation,” Shelton said. “If a piece of legislation comes out of that interim study, it will be thoughtful. We need to know where that line is.”

A legislative supporter of Stand Your Ground, Rep. Steve Vaughn, R-Ponca City, said Shelton may be standing alone in his attempt to re-open debate on the issue.

“You have a right to defend yourself,” said Vaughn, author of a 2010 amendment that expanded Stand Your Ground’s deadly force guidelines to the workplace. He said there is no legislative support for watering down the statute’s self-defense rights.

“My bill is not judge, jury and executioner. My bill was to give you something to stand with,” Vaughn said.

More than 30 states have laws similar to Oklahoma’s Stand Your Ground law, which was patterned after legislation adopted in Florida in 2005. The law clarified self-defense rights and expanded the right to protect yourself against attack in your own home to other places, including someone else’s home, a vehicle or a street corner.

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