Did Obama Support Stand Your Ground Laws As An Illinois Senator?

Kim LaCapria

President Obama's Stand Your Ground position is the latest of a he said/she said political dichotomy to emerge out of the Trayvon Martin case and the verdict earlier this month of "not guilty" in the trial of George Zimmerman.

At least in part, the Obama Stand Your Ground controversy stems from remarks made by the President on July 19, nearly a week after the Zimmerman verdict was rendered.

As part of a larger commentary on the case (including a lengthy rumination on living in America as a black man), Obama's Stand Your Ground mention in part addressed racial disparity in application of the laws, which are on the books in several states.

The President subtly addressed opposition to examining gun laws in the wake of gun tragedy, saying:

"And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these 'stand your ground' laws, I'd just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws."

Many gun rights supporters have lived in fear of a "gun grab," collectively panicking in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings as well as the Zimmerman verdict -- and the right-leaning "Washington Times" asserted this week that then-Senator Obama was a supporter of early legislation like the Stand Your Ground law in Florida:

"In 2004, while a senator in Illinois, he co-sponsored legislation that allowed for the same rights... The pertinent legislation was SB 2386, amending the criminal code of 1961. It was introduced in the 93rd General Assembly session and passed into law on July 28, 2004."

Then Slate stepped in to clarify, noting that to say Obama's Stand Your Ground position has changed is "trolling," and that the actual circumstance is nothing like the conservative Twittersphere claims:

"Oh, you can probably guess the twist. Illinois's 2004 SB2386 was passed by a unanimous vote in the state Senate. It amended a self-defense law first passed in 1961. Alarm bells should be ringing at this point, because Florida was pretty famously the first state to pass a "stand your ground" law, a year after this Illinois bill. Have reporters been blowing that story? No: "Stand your ground" is substantively different than what Obama backed in Illinois. He backed a tweak to the 'castle doctrine... ' "

The site notes that Florida "takes the concept of the castle doctrine and turns it into a traveling force field of sorts," drastically changing the ability to apply such legal use of lethal force outside of one's castle.

Do you think Obama's Stand Your Ground position threatens gun rights?