The Niagara County Republican senator said Friday that Democratic colleagues who have asked him to withdraw his legislation are using the issue to score political points.
Sen. George Maziarz’s bill, which he first proposed in 2008, would authorize people to use physical force if they reasonably believed it was necessary to defend themselves or others against imminent unlawful force. It would permit the use of deadly force if people believed they were in danger of being killed or suffering major bodily harm, of if they believed deadly force would be the only way to prevent or end a kidnapping, rape, other forcible criminal sex acts, robbery or burglary.
Following the Feb. 26 fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 22 Senate Democrats asked Maziarz to withdraw his bill. Martin, who was African-American, was unarmed.
Florida has a “stand your ground” law. Zimmerman has not been arrested. A special prosecutor is investigating.
Maziarz, of Newfane, said in a statement Friday that the public does not yet know all the details of the shooting. Martin’s death is a “terrible tragedy,” he said.
“I introduced legislation in 2008 that gives rights to victims of crime who use deadly force to protect themselves,” Maziarz said. “The measure has never moved out of committee, but some have sensed a political opportunity in light of Florida’s ‘Stand your ground’ law and are calling for the withdrawal of the bill. Let’s learn the facts and then decide what to do.”
The bill also has angered New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, which is leading a letter-writing campaign to urge Maziarz to withdraw the legislation.
Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said Republicans do not plan to take up Maziarz’ bill. There is no sponsor in the Assembly.
In their March 26 letter to Maziarz, the Senate Democrats said his bill is dangerous and “has the effect of justifying murder because of a perceived threat, even in cases where that perception appears to be based more on racist stereotyping than on any real danger.”
Senate Democrats said the Florida law has been invoked in at least 130 cases over the 6½ years it has been in effect. More than 70 percent of them involved a fatality, they said.
The letter said that Maziarz’ bill appears to be based on model legislation the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council advocates for. Twenty-one states have similar laws.
Maziarz said he believes in Second Amendment rights and individuals’ rights to protect themselves.
“But I do not support vigilantes who aggressively take the law into their own hands when not necessary,” he said.