Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin announced Friday he will hold hearings on so-called “stand your ground” laws passed by states, interjecting Congress in the ongoing controversy surrounding the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
The hearings, to be held in September, will address concerns from Democrats that laws allowing the use of deadly force in the face of a physical threat have altered the legal meaning of self-defense. Hispanic neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman successfully argued against a second-degree murder charge by insisting he shot Martin, a black youth, because he felt his life was in danger.
In what is sure to be a politically charged setting, the hearings will also tackle “when racial profiling and ‘stand your ground’ laws mix,” according to a release from Durbin, D-Ill, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. Civil rights advocates have called for an investigation by the federal Justice Department into whether race played a role in the death of Martin, who was not carrying a weapon and was returning home after a trip to a connivence store when he was approached by Zimmerman.
Durbin also wants the committee to look at the role of the National Rifle Association and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council in crafting and promoting “stand your ground” laws and similar legislation in about 30 states.