10 Georgia mayors ask Legislature to repeal ‘stand your ground’ law

The Georgia State Capitol as viewed from the James H. “Sloppy” Floyd Building. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

The Georgia State Capitol as viewed from the James H. “Sloppy” Floyd Building. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Ten Georgia mayors have sent a letter to General Assembly asking them to repeal the state’s “stand your ground” law.

Under “stand your ground” laws, a person can say they acted in self-defense and had no duty to retreat during a confrontation with someone else.

The letter was signed by the mayors of Atlanta, Savannah, Augusta, Athens-Clarke, Decatur, Norcross, Milledgeville, Waycross, Fairburn and Stockbridge.

Any change in the law would have to be addressed when lawmakers return in January.

“’Stand-your-ground’ laws upend centuries of traditional self-defense doctrine and threaten public safety by encouraging armed vigilantism, allowing a person to kill another person in a public area even when they can clearly and safely walk away from the danger,” the mayors said in the letter.

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Several Democratic lawmakers have decried the law in the months since video of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was followed and killed by three men in the Brunswick area in February, was made public.

Rovina Billingslea, a volunteer with the Georgia chapter of gun control group Moms Demand Action, also urged the Legislature to consider repealing “stand your ground.” Billingslea’s cousin, Jasmine, was shot and killed by a man who used the “stand-your-ground” defense and was acquitted.

“So-called ‘stand your ground’ laws encourage people to shoot first and ask questions later, and they enable these killers to get away scot free — especially when they kill Black people,” Billingslea said.

State Sen. Nikema Williams and state Rep. Bee Nguyen, both Atlanta Democrats, symbolically filed Senate Bill 515 and House Bill 1190, respectively, last week that would strike "has no duty to retreat" from self-defense law. Bills introduced this late in a legislative session are unlikely to receive any traction this year.

Democratic lawmakers said they plan to pursue several pieces of legislation when they return next session that address criminal justice, including the repeal of stand your ground and citizen’s arrest laws.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. called repealing the stand your ground law is essential in the current social climate, with national protests in response to racial injustice and police brutality.

“We should be working together to eradicate racism, social injustice, and white supremacy wherever we see it, especially in our laws,” Davis said.

Read the letter here: