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How Trayvon Martin death impacts Alaska debate over 'self defense'

Alaska Dispatch

The shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida has drawn national attention and the shooter claiming self defense, George Zimmerman, isn't the only subject on trial.

Since 2011, a piece of legislation concerning grounds for self defense has been snaking its way through the Alaska Legislature with very little attention. Until now that is.

Also known as the "Stand Your Ground" bill, it aims at changing language in the Alaska Constitution to give Alaskans the right to use deadly force for self defense "in any place where the person has a right to be." Currently, the law protects the use of deadly force in self defense at a person's house, workplace, or anywhere to protect a child. HB 80 would extend these limits to anywhere, as long as the person isn't trespassing.

The bill was proposed last year by Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Wasilla. It passed the House with little trouble and was making its way through the Senate when the Trayvon Martin tragedy occurred. 

Since then, the bill has been thrust into the spotlight. According to an Anchorage Daily News article, Neuman believes the bill still has the support of most Alaskans. It passed through the Judiciary Committee on Mar. 23 and still holds support of the National Rifle Association.

Even so, the Florida shooting has raised concerns. Right now, the law requires that an armed person has the responsibility to walk away from a dangerous situation but HB 80 would not make retreat necessary. Neuman addresses this in his sponsor statement.

"HB 80 strengthens the legal recognition of a basic human right to defend oneself by sending a message to the Judiciary and Law Enforcement that it is the criminal who has the duty to retreat."

Read more about the controversial bill at the Anchorage Daily News.