Legislative group shifts focus away from gun rights amid pushback
The organization that helped spread Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law across the country is halting its push for gun rights in the wake of the national outcry over Trayvon Martin’s shooting death.
The American Legislative Exchange Council said Tuesday that it would shift focus from social to economic issues, abandoning causes like gun rights and voter identification laws.
“Today we are redoubling our efforts on the economic front, a priority that has been the hallmark of our organization for decades,” ALEC national chairman and Indiana state lawmaker David Frizzell said in a statement. “We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy.”
Sparked by several defections by a number of large companies in recent weeks, ALEC’s announcement signaled a major about-face for an organization that wielded considerable sway in changing the way 25 states deal with deadly encounters and self-defense.
ALEC, an organization of hundreds of state legislators and private companies, also supported the recent wave of voting law changes that critics decry as voter suppression.
“The American public has wised up to ALEC’s misguided and secretive attempts to co-opt state legislators for corporate profit,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “In folding its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, ALEC is abandoning under pressure the most controversial part of its agenda; that’s an important victory for the American public.”
In 2005, the National Rifle Association — a strong ALEC supporter — helped usher the Stand Your Ground law through Florida’s Legislature, broadening the state’s self-defense provisions to shield people who use deadly force outside of their homes.
The NRA celebrated the law’s passage in Florida, and immediately set its sight on spreading the provision nationwide. The group’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, told the Washington Post in 2005 that the Florida Legislature represented the “first step of a multi-state strategy."
After Gov. Jeb Bush signed the bill, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer kicked off the multistate plan, pitching the Stand Your Ground law language to ALEC during a closed-door meeting, where members drafted model laws for other state legislatures.
Within a year, nearly a dozen states, from Alabama to Oklahoma, had passed legislation similar or identical to Florida’s new statute, with ALEC and the NRA working behind the scenes.
“After 2005, the Stand Your Ground law jumped into 15 other states, overnight practically,” said Arthur Hayhoe, executive director of Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “And ALEC was right there.”
The NRA has spent more than $2 million on political contributions at the state level since 2005, with Florida receiving a large chunk, according to National Institute on Money in State Politics records.
As the money flowed into state legislatures, more and more states adopted ALEC’s Stand Your Ground language in lopsided, bi-partisan votes. Full story here.
-- Toluse Olorunnipa and Erika Bolstad