MO senate

Opponents of a proposed bill in Missouri’s Senate that would strengthen the state’s “stand your ground” law, say that if passed, the bill would create chaos in Missouri.

Senate Bill 666 would change gun laws to assume anyone using force is doing so out of self-defense. Under current law, a person who uses force must prove that they believed physical or deadly force was necessary to protect themselves.

But SB 666 says any person who “uses or threatens to use force in self-defense is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force.”

In addition, law enforcement agencies may investigate the use of force incident, but the agency may not arrest the person for use of force unless the agency determines that there was probable cause that the force was unlawful.

The person can only be prosecuted if the state can prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the person did not act reasonably. 

Sponsor of the bill, Republican Eric Burlison, said SB 666 is meant “to prevent Missourians from acts of overzealous prosecutors.”

The bill has advanced to the Missouri Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee, met with much critique.

More than 30 sheriffs, police departments and prosecutors in Missouri signed a letter against the bill. Law enforcement officials said the legal process for self-defense laws was already tight and under this bill, “officers would be barred from arresting someone for any violent offense where they claim self-defense.”

During testimony for the bill, Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russell Oliver called the bill the “Make Murder Legal Act.” 

He said that in homicides with no witnesses, the legislation would force authorities to accept the suspect’s version of events.

“So long as the person is dead, you automatically have immunity because there’s not someone else to even say what had happened,” Oliver said.

Brian Williams, the only Black member of the Missouri Senate’s public safety committee, cited the recent conviction of Greg and Travis McMichael and William Bryan in Georgia for killing Ahmaud Arbery.

“This bill, if this had been in law in the state of Georgia, they would have walked,” Williams said at the hearing, according to the AP.

Lindsey Simmons, a former Congressional candidate took it a step further and took to Twitter, saying the bill would allow the legal “lynching of Black men.”

“Senate Bill 666 makes Missouri a safe haven for the lynching of black men,” Simmons wrote in a Twitter thread, “this bill is in direct response to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the reckless actions of the McClosky’s + the sham that was the Rittenhouse trial there is no doubt.”

“Never forget that when far too many view blackness as a deadly weapon, there will always be people who feel justified in “protecting” themselves from it,” Simmons continued on Twitter, “so they legalize murder. SB 666 is that law.”

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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