Houston politician wants to change ‘stand your ground’ law

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, was among only 13 lawmakers who voted against the Texas Stand Your Ground law when it passed in 2007.

A bill introduced Thursday is his attempt eight years later to stop what he feels have been the law’s unintended consequences.

“The problem we have is that there’s a perception of certain people that who they are makes them dangerous,” said Coleman. “You’ve seen people walk across the street to avoid certain people, which might be appropriate. But shooting them because they perceive that that individual is actually going to hurt them and have that be legal under the law is just not appropriate.”

Coleman filed House Bill 1627 on Thursday to modify the existing Stand Your Ground law. HB 1627, while not affecting the right to use deadly force in one’s home or “castle”, would allow the use of lethal force in other self-defense situations only if a person cannot safely retreat. Texas is one of nearly two dozen states that currently do not have a so-called duty to retreat before someone opts to use deadly force.

“People can’t be judge, jury and executioner,” Coleman said, referring to the current law that he says disproportionately puts a target on minorities. “You know they used to lynch people. And that was people taking the law into their own hands.”

In introducing HB 1627, Coleman mentioned the 2007 case of Joe Horn in Pasadena. Horn, despite a 911 operator pleading with him to stay inside his house and not confront the two burglars he was watching through a bedroom window as they robbed his neighbor’s house, exited his home armed with a shotgun and confronted the burglars as they ran away. He shot and killed them both and a Harris County grand jury chose not to indict him. Coleman says under his bill Horn would have been charged with a crime.

“I don’t blame anybody for being apprehensive. But apprehension should not give an individual the right to take someone’s life,” said Coleman.

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