In a speech at the NAACP annual convention in Orlando, Fla., Attorney General Eric Holder argued the state’s controversial stand your ground laws “senselessly expand the concept of self-defense.” His speech was the first on the issue from a top-level Obama Administration official following the not guilty verdict in George Zimmerman’s murder trial.
Holder continued his attack of Florida’s expanded self-defense statute, which is on the books in 30 states and allows individuals to use deadly force whenever and wherever they feel threatened.
“These laws try to fix something that was never broken,” Holder told NAACP delegates, “The list of resulting tragedies is long and, unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent.”
In the wake of Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict, many have called on the Justice Department to file charges against the neighborhood watch volunteer. They assert Zimmerman violated Trayvon Martin’s civil rights and racially profiled the teen before confronting, and later killing, him.
The Attorney General said the slaying of Trayvon Martin forced him to sit down with his teenaged son—as Holder’s own father had once done—to talk about the burden of being a black man in America.
“Trayvon’s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son, like my dad did with me.”
He continued: ”This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down. But as a father who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world, I had to do this to protect my boy,” he said. “I am his father and it is my responsibility, not to burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world he must still confront. This is a sad reality in a nation that is changing for the better in so many ways.”
The Attorney General vowed to look into the Zimmerman case and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened an investigation to see whether or not they can bring charges against him.
Although Holder condemned the “stand your ground” statute, he admitted the DOJ could do little to change the laws since they were enacted at the state level. Instead, Holder argued we need to dismantle systematic racism and the attitudes of prejudice that leads to situations like Martin’s death.
“It’s time to strengthen our collective resolve to combat gun violence but also time to combat violence involving or directed toward our children – so we can prevent future tragedies.” He added, “We must confront the underlying attitudes, mistaken beliefs and unfortunate stereotypes that serve too often as the basis for police action and private judgments.”