Submission on "Stand Your Ground" Laws

This statement was submitted by FAN to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for the September 17, 2013 hearing by the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.


Franciscan Action Network (FAN) is a national organization of Franciscan men and women, lay and religious, Catholic and Ecumenical, which provides “a collective Franciscan voice seeking to transform United States public policy related to peacemaking, care for creation, poverty and human rights.”  We follow the Gospel path of St. Francis of Assisi, named Patron of Peacemaking by the United Nations.


We experience great concern about the increased manufacture, sophistication and use of guns in our country, which has resulted in mass killings in recent years.  We work to promote legislation that will require background checks for all gun purchases, prohibit the manufacture, sale and use of guns designed for use on the battlefield, limit the number of magazines and make gun trafficking a crime.  We do not interpret the Second Amendment of the Constitution as giving approval for all citizens to purchase unlimited number and types of weapons without even submitting to background checks.   We view the “Stand Your Ground Laws,” not as a means to protect citizens but as a threat to the safety of women, children and men in this country.  “Stand Your Ground” opens the possibility of any person to shoot and kill another person whom the shooter perceives, whether based on reality or not, to be a threat.  Even if there are no witnesses, even if the person perceived to be a threat is unarmed, a shooter with faulty or hasty judgment, or with personal biases, can be justified in shooting to kill a person seen to be a threat. 


“Stand Your Ground” laws have been adopted in 26 states since 2005, significantly expanding the permissible use of deadly force on our streets.  Some states have given permission for anyone to carry a concealed weapon, or even be visibly armed or to carry a gun into bars, in the style of the gun-slinging Old West when firearms were far less sophisticated than they are today.  As Franciscan men and women, committed to peacemaking, we deplore the image of our country as “trigger happy,” whether that is promoting a military strike against Syria to punish the horrific use of chemical weapons, or refusing to enact safe gun laws, or enabling ordinary citizens to plead not guilty to murder using the justification of “Stand Your Ground” laws.


Others will make the case against “Stand Your Ground” on legal grounds.  Our opposition is on moral, human rights grounds.  Every person in this country has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not just the person with a gun.  As Christians, we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ who urged his followers to follow his path of peace.  As Franciscans, we follow the admonition of Francis of Assisi to not only preach peace, but to live peace, and have it first within our own hearts.  As a young man, Francis dreamed of becoming a knight to fight in the Crusades, but inspired by the Person of Jesus Christ, he was converted to peacemaking.  We pray for all those who place their trust in guns for security and a peaceful life. While this may seem to be a naïve argument, we maintain that evidence indicates that violence leads to violence; that the more guns there are in the hands of more people with fewer legal restraints, the higher the death toll by guns will mount in this country that we love.


We support the witnesses who will urge reconsideration of “Stand Your Ground” laws and resistance to the gun lobby’s aggressive efforts to promote them.