Meet the Press   |  July 21, 2013

Does stand your ground law need reform?

A Meet the Press roundtable discusses the concept of self-defense and whether the laws regarding it should be adjusted.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> of the law that seemed to loom so large over this situation? and that is the stand your ground law. in florida , 21 other states -- that really redefine the concepts of what we consider to be self-defense. the attorney general was in florida this week. and he spoke about it in a way that the president echoed later. here's what the attorney general said.

>> it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and so dangerous in our neighborhoods. these laws tried to fix something that was never broken. there has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if -- and the if is important -- if no safe retreat is available.

>> now, michael steele , some republicans have immediately politicized this into the gun debate and said -- when i say politicized, i'm not making a judgment, but they are putting this into the gun argument about the ability to defend oneself. in this particular case, you have the police officers who told george zimmerman , don't pursue this young man.

>> right.

>> don't do that. he gets back into his car. he says he feels threatened. and he follows him.

>> anyway.

>> that's what the attorney general, what the president's talking about.

>> and that's what the facts -- that's what the facts tell us. but the question now becomes, is this a proper role for the federal government to go in versus the states to go into all 21 states now and tell them how to rechange -- or change their laws or to remake their laws? no. this is something that's going to have to get worked out state by state. you have 21 states , other states out there as well. it's not just florida . so when we start this conversation, you have people talking about, well, i'm going to boycott florida . i'm not going to perform there. i'm not going to go there. well, you're not going to go to 21 other states ? there's got to be some level of consistency, number one. number two, on the political side of it, again, the facts of the trayvon martin case , this was not brought into it. this was not the underlying argument that was made. the defense backed off of that, as a defense.

>> however, however --

>> can i ask you, professor, there was a jury instruction , and people have missed the fact that the jury instruction was cited by one of the jurors as the reason for the acquittal. so it was an issue in the case. and these stand your ground laws, what's striking about them is how they got on the books. they got on the books because of an effort by the nra in conjunction with the american with alec to introduce them and pass them in states across the nation. it is the role of the nation's chief justice officer who is the attorney general.

>> you know who views the stand your ground law the most in florida ? it's african-americans. but i'm just saying.

>> the reality is that another group pushed stand your ground , but african-americans have been using it around the country.

>> it's also led --

>> the hypocrisy, marc mentioned the nra -- the hypocrisy of the nra is on full display here. we have not yet heard and i predict you'll never hear the nra say that if trayvon martin had a gun, he'd still be alive. they haven't said it yet, tree. they haven't said that.

>> let's put it out there. right here. the most important thing is that the stand your ground law is one of the things that has incited and ignited i believe this movement across the nation which i think, david, is the beginning of a new civil rights movement , to challenge these issues. because of what the congresswoman has said, the landscape has changed. the voting rights act decision by the supreme court which was striking in its superficiality. the trayvon martin incident and everything from the police officers not arresting george zimmerman at the very beginning to the need for a special prosecutor to the fact that the special prosecute are himself did not participate in trying the case, to the composition of the jury, to the way in which the case was tried all the way to the verdict strikes people as just mountains of evidence --

>> let me ask this. professor, the attorney general is looking at this as a potential civil rights violation against george zimmerman . i heard the president, to me, sort of lower expectations.

>> exactly.

>> on what basis?

>> the reality is that this is not a federal issue. it's a state issue. and states have moved forward and talked about stand your ground and a lot of other issues as well. i think he's saying the federal government can't do anything. we can be behind that. rodney king . it was the state that started and didn't do well. and then the federal government came in. in a lot of these cases, people being killed, being beaten, the federal government is there in response to that, but not the ones --

>> i think, david, that's what the protesters -- and i celebrate them. i applaud the efforts across these cities yesterday, but i think what they missed is what you astutely pointed out. the president basically said to us without saying to us, this ain't going no further. you can march and protest and rally --

>> i don't think he said that.

>> i didn't say he said it.

>> let me say this. the mistake that people make is to prejudge an investigation before