FIRST ON FOX: Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and Oklahoma Sen. Markwayne Mullin, both Republicans, are proposing a national “Stand Your Ground” law against attackers.
Gaetz caught up over the phone with Fox News Digital on Thursday about his and Mullin’s companion bills dropping the same day, with the Florida Republican saying the proposed law came out of his efforts in the Sunshine State legislature “after the Trayvon Martin death.”
While chairman of the Florida House’s Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Gaetz said he held hearings on the state’s Stand Your Ground law amid “national calls to repeal” the statute.
ATF DIRECTOR REFUSES TO DEFINE ‘ASSAULT WEAPON,’ SAYS IT’S UP TO CONGRESS
“I became even more convinced that the legal duty to retreat from common law puts the law on the side of the attacker, not the victim,” Gaetz said.
“And as I’ve gotten to Congress, I don’t believe that the legal duty to retreat as an American ought to be different in Florida and Connecticut and Massachusetts and California,” he continued.
“I think we ought to have a national reckoning on the duty to retreat, and we ought to extinguish it,” Gaetz added.
Gaetz said America has “too many states that continue to maintain the duty to retreat if one is attacked outside their home” and that Congress “should supersede that state law because it leaves Americans vulnerable.”
The Florida Republican noted that in “our nation’s capital today,” a person being attacked on the street has to make a “split-second” decision on whether they can “turn their back and run,” with a “miscalculation” potentially proving “fatal.”
“And if you miscalculate toward the side of self-defense, you could be under arrest,” Gaetz said. “If someone is intending to commit a forcible felony on an American, an American right should be meeting that force with comparable force.”
Gaetz said he is seeing increasing support for the measure among his GOP colleagues and said Mullin’s companion bill in the Senate “is a big boost.”
“Since I serve on the Judiciary Committee, I’m going to be using that perch to inject my views on self-defense and extinguishing the duty to retreat in the various legislative proposals that the committee may consider,” Gaetz said.
Gaetz also blasted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., saying he ‘hasn’t been the greatest when it comes to putting the law on the sides of the victim.”
“He seems to hold a different view, so we may have to use leverage on a must-pass bill to get Stand Your Ground considered,” Gaetz said.
The Florida congressman said “in practice,” Stand Your Ground laws have “stopped arrests on sight when someone has engaged in legitimate self-defense.”
“That defanged arrest has a chilling effect when someone justly defends themselves,” Gaetz added.
Mullin told Fox News Digital that states “like Oklahoma and Florida recognize that in some cases, the use of lethal force is justified to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm.”
“Every American should have the right to defend himself or herself against imminent threats to personal safety without the duty to retreat,” Mullin said.
“I’m proud to introduce the Stand Your Ground Act in the Senate to codify these commonsense self-defense protections for all law-abiding Americans,” he added.
Stand Your Ground laws, such as the one in Florida, allow law-abiding persons in a lawful place who are attacked to forcefully defend themselves from death or great injury, including with deadly force, without having to retreat first if the person believes it’s reasonably necessary to do so.
The Republicans’ bill comes as Democrats in Congress and the White House aim to expand gun control amid rising crime in America.
Last month, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Steve Dettelbach refused to define the term “assault weapon,” saying it was a decision for Congress.
Dettlebach testified before the House Judiciary Committee to speak about the pistol brace rule that would outlaw common stabilizing mechanisms.
Dettlebach was questioned by Democratic Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who asked the ATF director whether he knew what an “assault weapon” was after acknowledging the recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.
“Let me just hold up just to pay tribute and acknowledge that these are the deceased — their families are still mourning — of the incident in Buffalo at the grocery store. It was an assault weapon that killed them,” said Lee.
She continued: “My question to you is just simply a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ You know what an assault weapon is? You’ve seen one?”
Dettlebach deflected the question, saying the term is not something he’s qualified to rule on.
“Again, that would be a decision for Congress to make, respectfully, as to make that definition. It is… There are numerous different legislative bodies that have taken up that question,” Dettlebach said before being cut off.
“If we laid a weapon on the table, you could pretty much say, ‘That falls in the category of assault weapon?'” Lee interjected during Dettlebach’s testimony.
The ATF director did not budge, responding: “Respectfully, that is a decision that different legislative bodies have come up with different definitions for. It would be for the legislators to make that determined action as to how they would define it unless they were to delegate that authority to ATF.”
Fox News Digital’s Timothy H.J. Nerozzi contributed reporting.
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