Published July 17, 2013
The National Rifle Association blasted Eric Holder for using the George Zimmerman case to attack "stand-your-ground" laws, accusing the attorney general of exploiting Trayvon Martin's shooting death for political gain.
Holder weighed in on the controversial self-defense laws for the first time on Tuesday during a speech to the annual NAACP convention, calling for a national review of the statutes.
"Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation's attention, it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods," Holder said.
Holder has already confirmed that his Justice Department continues to investigate Zimmerman, in the wake of his acquittal, for possible federal civil rights crimes. But Chris W. Cox, executive director NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, claimed Holder went too far in extending the debate to "stand-your-ground" laws.
"The attorney general fails to understand that self-defense is not a concept, it's a fundamental human right," he said in a statement. "To send a message that legitimate self-defense is to blame is unconscionable, and demonstrates once again that this administration will exploit tragedies to push their political agenda."
The laws are in place in more than two dozen states, including Florida. They allow people to use deadly force if they think their life is being threatened. The role that law played in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is a matter of dispute -- Zimmerman's defense team technically did not use the law as the basis for their arguments.
But Holder, in his speech to the NAACP, suggested that the laws encourage gun owners to seek confrontation rather than avoid it.
"But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely," Holder said. "By allowing -- and perhaps encouraging -- violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety."
He called for a "hard look" at the laws. The crowd applauded as he said "we must stand our ground."
The "stand-your-ground" laws have been a popular target ever since the Martin shooting, and the pressure has intensified after Zimmerman was acquitted on Saturday.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, though, told Fox News that officials should not politicize the case.
"We shouldn't turn this into politics. This was a tragedy," he told Fox News on Monday.
Scott noted that he already put together a bipartisan commission to examine Florida's "stand-your-ground" law.
"Their recommendation is we not make any changes, that it is working the way it was intended," Scott said.