Sybrina Fulton, mother of slain Fla. teen Trayvon Martin, argues for clarification of "stand your ground" self-defense laws

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, holds up a card with a photo of her son as she speaks at the National Urban League's annual conference, Friday, July 26, 2013, in Philadelphia AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, holds up a card with a photo of her son as she speaks at the National Urban League's annual conference, Friday, July 26, 2013, in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
(CBS/AP) - The mother of an unarmed Florida teen who was killed last year during a deadly confrontation with a neighborhood watch volunteer advocated for amending "stand your ground" self-defense laws before a U.S. Senate panel Tuesday.

PICTURES: George Zimmerman crime scene photos

The laws, adopted in some form by at least 22 states, generally cancel a person's duty to retreat in the face of a serious physical threat. But Sybrina Fulton, whose son Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, told lawmakers today that Zimmerman's acquittal provided evidence that "stand your ground" laws can be confusing and applied inconsistently.

Fulton said her son was going to buy candy and a drink before the deadly confrontation, "minding his own business and not looking for any type of trouble."

"We need to do something about this law when your kids cannot feel safe in their own communities," Fulton said, speaking at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights.

"The person that shot and killed my son is walking the streets today," Fulton said. "This law does not work. We need to seriously take a look at this law."

The Democratic-controlled Senate held the hearing on "stand your ground" even though no congressional action is expected on the state policies.

Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin called two panels of witnesses to the hearing room Tuesday to address the issue. "These laws have emboldened those who carry guns to initiate confrontations which have ended up killing unarmed children," Durbin said.

Also testifying were Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican and a staunch supporter of "stand your ground" laws, and Lucia Holman McBath, the mother of Jordan Russell Davis, a 17-year old killed nearly a year ago when Michael David Dunn, 46, allegedly opened fire on a car after complaining about loud music and saying he saw a gun. Authorities never found a gun in the vehicle, the Florida Times-Union reported.

"That man was empowered by the 'stand your ground' statute," McBath said in prepared testimony. "I am here to tell you there was no ground to stand. There was no threat. No one was trying to invade his home, his vehicle, nor threatened him or his family." Dunn's trial has been delayed until next year, according to the newspaper.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 22 states have laws that state that "there is no duty to retreat (from) an attacker in any place in which one is lawfully present." The states are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia, according to the NCSL.

At least nine of those state laws include language stating one may "stand his or her ground": Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, according to the NCSL.

Gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association say "stand your ground" laws are about self-defense.

"Self-defense is not a concept, it's a fundamental human right," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.

Complete coverage of the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case on Crimesider

  • Erin Donaghue

    Erin Donaghue covers crime for's Crimesider.


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