On August 6, the Alabama Policy Institute received a letter from Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) inquiring into the Institute’s affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and specifically ALEC’s support of “stand your ground” laws. Unfortunately, the letter appears more aimed at political intimidation of an organization that directly promotes policies Senator Durbin opposes than fostering a healthy debate about self-defense laws.
In 2005, ALEC drafted model legislation that would remove the duty of an individual to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense or the defense of another. That law, adopted by many states including Alabama, has become known as “stand your ground.” Durbin’s letter, sent to more than 300 corporations and non-profits, asks whether the recipient organization has provided any recent funding to ALEC and whether or not the organization supported the “stand your ground” legislation.
Alabama’s “stand your ground” law dictates that “a person who is justified…in using deadly physical force in self-defense or in defense of another, who is not engaged in unlawful activity and is in any place where he or she has the right to be, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground.” Alabama has also adopted the “castle doctrine” which means that a person is authorized to use deadly force against an intruder or attacker in a dwelling, residence, or vehicle under certain circumstances. Similar laws can be found on the books over half of the states in the union. In fact, as a state legislator, President Obama voted in favor of Illinois’s “stand your ground” law when it passed in 2004.
The Alabama Policy Institute has and will continue to support the constitutional right to bear arms, as provided in the Second Amendment of the U.S Constitution and in Article I, § 26 of the Alabama Constitution. We also agree with the Supreme Court in D.C. v. Heller that “the inherent right of self-defense [is] central to the Second Amendment right.” Senator Durbin apparently does not share this view. Given the broader context of the large-scale IRS targeting scandal exposed earlier this summer, it is difficult to consider the letter as anything other than an attempt to stifle the right of free speech and free association amongst groups that stand for policies that Senator Durbin is against.
If Durbin is successful, for-profit corporations will be reluctant to support organizations that promote policies like “stand your ground” for fear of blatant targeting and backlash levied by politicians who oppose them.
Near the end of the letter, Durbin notes his intention to hold a hearing on “stand your ground” laws and that any responses to his letter will be made publicly available at that time. As a non-profit think tank, publicizing our stances on policy issues is fundamental to the mission of API; thus, Senator Durbin’s perceived attempt to have us shy away from defending Second Amendment rights and from supporting likeminded groups will fail. However, if Durbin is successful, for-profit corporations will be reluctant to support organizations that promote policies like “stand your ground” for fear of blatant targeting and backlash levied by politicians who oppose them.
The Alabama Policy Institute appreciates Senator Durbin’s review of our work, as we seek to promote and protect the rights provided to Alabamians by our state and federal constitutions. API will also continue to fight against pervasive federal intrusion in areas, like criminal law, over which states have always enjoyed sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment.
Katherine Green Robertson serves as senior policy counsel for the Alabama Policy Institute (API). API is an independent, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families. If you would like to speak with the author, please call (205) 870-9900 or email her at [email protected].
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