Breitbart Myth: Janet Napolitano Signed Arizona's "Stand Your Ground" Law

Categories: Media, Schmedia
janet-napolitano-top.jpg
climateandsecurity.org
Former Arizona Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.


Readers of the right-wing news-opinion website Breitbart -- founded by the late Andrew Breitbart -- are being led to believe that Arizona's former Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, signed Arizona's "stand your ground" bill into law.

It's part of Breitbart's narrative that the Democratic politicians who are now complaining about the laws are the ones who enacted them, and that narrative is false, in the case of Arizona.

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Not only has Napolitano not been publicly complaining about such laws, but she didn't sign Arizona's law -- perhaps not surprisingly, it was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer.

"Now it's been discovered that an even more prominent Democrat, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, signed Arizona's Stand Your Ground bill into law while governor of that state in 2006," the Breitbart post says. "And it's important to note that Napolitano didn't sign the bill half-halfheartedly, rather, she even countered anti-gunners' opposition in the signing."

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breitbart.com
Wrong.

The post links to a press release from the NRA, praising Napolitano for signing "castle doctrine" legislation into law.

The "castle doctrine" protects people who use deadly force in self-defense, with no duty to retreat, but only while in their "castles" -- their homes or vehicles.

Napolitano signed that bill into law in 2006. (Text here).

"Stand your ground laws" differ in that a person has no duty to retreat before an act of deadly self-defense, anywhere "where the person may legally be." In other words, the "stand your ground laws" apply to anywhere in public.

Arizona's version of this law was signed by Governor Jan Brewer in 2010.

From House Bill 2629 in 2010:
B. A PERSON HAS NO DUTY TO RETREAT BEFORE THREATENING OR USING DEADLY PHYSICAL FORCE PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION IF THE PERSON IS IN A PLACE WHERE THE PERSON MAY LEGALLY BE AND IS NOT ENGAGED IN AN UNLAWFUL ACT.
It's an interesting narrative provided by Breitbart, but like several other pieces on Arizona issues we've discovered on the website, it just isn't true.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.


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16 comments
robert_graham
robert_graham

Regardless who signed the law it is a good and necessary law.  But it looks like Cordell Jude is trying to use the law to his advantage but unlike the Trayvon Martin case, his defense will fail.

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

Actually, Castle Doctrine is considered to be a weaker form of the general class of "stand your ground" laws.

The phrase "stand your ground" actually comes from a Supreme Court ruling about the right of a person to shoot to defend his home.


JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

"Readers of the right-wing news-opinion website Breitbart..."  You're being too generous.  The rest of us would call it a fantasy website - more like right-wing porn than anything else.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows topcommenter

@valleynative

Actually, "Castle Doctrine", is a VERY old law in many places.  England, the 1600's. (hence, the "Castle" part)

"The legal concept of the inviolability of the home has been known in Western Civilization  since the age of the Roman Republic.. The term derives from the historic English common law dictum that "an Englishman's home is his castle." "

SYG was an EXTENSION of the castle doctrine (pushed by the NRA, BTW, to sell more guns.)

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@WhoKnows  

The "Castle Doctrine" is, indeed very old, being the oldest of the class of "stand your ground" laws.

The member of that class of laws which is generally called simply "the Stand Your Ground Law" in Arizona was not pushed by the NRA, but rather by the Arizona Civil Defense League, which is not in the business of selling guns (although they do raffle them sometimes).

Could you please explain how, in your mind, expanding SYG rights sells more guns?    In your twisted universe, do people think, "Oh, now I can defend myself in more places, so I'll go out and buy another gun"?  Or is it that people who had never thought of carrying a gun noticed the articles about the law and realized for the first time that people could use guns to defend themselves?


valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@JohnQ.Public  

At this point in the downward spiral of our society, most people seem to acquire much of their knowledge about how people should and do behave from watching either fiction or particularly newsworthy events.

I really prefer to have codification of the fact that if somebody is pointing a gun at myself and/or family, that I'm not obligated to try to reason with him or take any other action so as not to ensure that the incident ends "peacefully".


JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@valleynative There is actually a lot of academic study done of juries, jury verdicts and jurisprudence and I'm not sure that the concern you expressed has ever been identified as an issue.  While bad facts make bad law (and bad jury verdicts) on occassion, that is the exception and not the rule.  I don't think that the Robin Hood concern that you expressed has ever been identified in the literature as any sort trend in any objective study of jury verdicts. 

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@JohnQ.Public  

Sure, but it's clear that a lot of people, many of whom might serve on a jury, believe that the victim has an obligation to let the robber have his way, rather than do anything that might hurt the poor guy, particularly if they perceive that he's down on his luck and you can afford the loss.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@valleynative You didn't have to worry about that before SYG laws were enacted. You had protection under both common law and statutory law before SYG. 

@whoknows To be fair, in a carjacking its not just about protecting a car - its about protecting the car's occupents from potential harm as well.  If an escape is feasible, great, but if not the occupent has, and has always had, the right to confront a gun wielding carjacker - even prior to the current wave of SYG laws that have been passed in the last 10 years.

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@WhoKnows 

Not surprisingly, that's a really stupid way of looking at it.

Of course not.  But if somebody pulled a weapon on me and asked me for the time of day, I'd kill him, given the opportunity.

It's not the taking that deserves instant death, it's the use of deadly force to make the "request".

WhoKnows
WhoKnows topcommenter

@valleynative @JohnQ.Public So, you'd kill someone for the value of a car.  Got it.  Would you also kill someone for the value of an iPhone? (might not be a fair question as an iPhone might be worth more than your car...)

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@JohnQ.Public  

Another way to look at it is that I shouldn't have to worry about the armed carjacker's family suing me because I stood my ground and shot him instead of running away.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

You wrong, whoknows.  The NRA hasn't been pushing SYG laws to sell more guns - it has been pushing SYG laws (as opposed to the castle doctrime) laws to provide legal cover for their members who like to pack their metal courage out on the town and blow their load at shadows in the dark.  The NRA sees SYG laws as a hunting license for its members - allowing them to go huntin' for them folks that don't look right just like Zimmerman did.  Now an NRA member can go shoot an unarmed kid and, assuming there's no witnesses, claim protection under SYG. 

All kidding aside, ALEC and the National Shooting Sports Foundationhas been a big supporter of SYG laws because they help to further insulate ALEC's and NSSF's corporate members (including gun and ammo manufacturers and retailers) from liability for shootings (not that they have much now, but if you're an ALEC member you can never put too much liability protection between yourself and the use of your product).

ALEC and the NRA - a truly special partnership.

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@WhoKnows

People who are considering guns for self defense aren't going to be worried about the legal consequences of shooting to save their own lives.

Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6, you know.   Making it harder to prosecute people for defending themselves really doesn't have a significant impact on gun sales.

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

And yes, I would expect the NRA to support these laws, not because they sell guns, but because they reduce prosecution of people who shot to save their own lives.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows topcommenter

@valleynative @WhoKnows With SYG, more people will buy guns for defense.  People that don't have one yet.  The NRA has been behind SYG in other states too.

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