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Senate panel plans hearing on ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws

After almost a week of protests about the verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial and calls for the federal government to respond, a leading senator said Friday that he plans to hold a hearing on so-called "stand your ground" laws.


Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (Brian Jackson/AP/Chicago Sun-Times)

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said he would lead a hearing on such laws, which generally give an individual the right to use deadly force to protect themselves if they feel they are in danger and don't require them to flee. More than 30 states have such laws on the books.

In a statement, Durbin said the Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on Constitution, civil rights and human rights "will examine the gun lobby’s and the American Legislative Exchange Council’s influence in creating and promoting these laws; the way in which the laws have changed the legal definition of self-defense; the extent to which the laws have encouraged unnecessary shooting confrontations; and the civil rights implications when racial profiling and 'stand your ground' laws mix, along with other issues."

The hearing will occur some time after Congress returns from its month-long August recess, Durbin said. Plans to hold the hearing come after Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. strongly condemned such laws, saying they “senselessly expand the concept of self-defense” and may encourage “violent situations to escalate.”

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., was acquitted of murder charges Saturday.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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