A top Republican joined President Barack Obama's call to review so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws in the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting of black teen Trayvon Martin.
Sen. John McCain, Ariz., a prominent Republican who's been known to break ranks with fellow members of the GOP at times, urged state legislatures to review Stand Your Ground laws in the wake of the Zimmerman trial, which became a national flashpoint for race relations in America.
"I can also see that Stand Your Ground laws may be something that needs to be reviewed by the Florida legislature or any other legislature that has passed such legislation," McCain said on CNN.
Asked whether his home state legislature should consider revising its own similar law, McCain said yes.
"I think that, yes, I do, and I'm confident that the members of the Arizona legislature will because it is a very controversial legislation," he said.
Stand Your Ground laws refer to a legal doctrine in some states where an individual is permitted to use force in the name of self-defense without having to necessarily try to retreat from a confrontation. Though Zimmerman did not cite the theory in his successful defense against murder charges in the Martin shooting, Stand Your Ground laws have come under scrutiny because of concerns that these laws might give rise to similar violent confrontations.
In extended and personal remarks about the Zimmerman trial and race, Obama on Friday joined the chorus of political leaders suggesting a review of Stand Your Ground laws is in order.
"And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these 'Stand Your Ground' laws, I'd just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?" Obama asked. "And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, blasted Obama for those comments during a speech this weekend in Iowa, a traditional stomping ground for candidates eyeing their own future bid for the presidency.
“It is not surprising that the president uses, it seems, every opportunity that he can to go after our Second Amendment right to bear arms," Cruz said Friday, according to an account by CNN.
McCain on Sunday chided Cruz — a senator with whom he has sometimes clashed — suggesting that he didn't share the Texas senator's suspicions.
"Isn't this time for us to try to come together? Isn't it time for America to come together in light of several weeks of what is really exacerbating relations between elements of our society? I'd rather have a message of coming together and discussing these issues rather than condemning," McCain said. " I just respect his view, but I don't frankly see the connection."
Obama's comments about Stand Your Ground and race continued to reverberate on Sunday, as African American leaders pondered the significance of the president's surprise remarks on Friday.
Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said on NBC's Meet the Press that she was "very proud" of the president's remarks.
But she also said that black Americans are "being attacked from so many sides" in politics, citing cuts to food stamp programs passed recently by the GOP-held House of Representatives, or the Supreme Court's recent decision gutting parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act.
"I don't care how many laws you put on the table," she said. "You cannot legislate against prejudice or bias or racism."
Obama's remarks about race didn't satisfy everybody, though. Pundit Tavis Smiley argued that Obama had essentially been pushed into delivering remarks about the Trayvon Martin case, and should have been more active in speaking about race after the Zimmerman verdict.
"This is not Libya; this is America," said Smiley on Meet the Press. "On this issue, you cannot lead from behind."
First published July 21 2013, 9:47 AM