(The Root) — "It's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said at the 2013 NAACP convention on Tuesday in Orlando, Fla., referring to the "Stand your ground" laws in place in more than 30 states.
In reaction to George Zimmerman's acquittal in the murder of Trayvon Martin, Holder also promised that the Department of Justice would continue its investigation into Zimmerman and the possibility of federal civil rights charges in the shooting of Trayvon.
"Now, while that inquiry is ongoing, I can promise that the Department of Justice will consider all available information before determining what action to take," Holder said.
A Department of Justice representative confirmed to The Root on Thursday that all evidence in the Zimmerman trial has been held for further review, including the gun used to kill Trayvon. However, because "Stand your ground" laws are state-based, Holder's words are more of a push to sway local leaders to repeal the law in their own states rather than a declaration of DOJ future action.
Repealing "Stand your ground" laws was an issue that the Rev. Al Sharpton also raised at the NAACP conference on Wednesday. "Just like we raised the temperature to get a trial, we are going to raise the temperature to get civil rights legislation and to turn around 'Stand Your Ground,' " said Sharpton.
Sharpton and his National Action Network are organizing 100 "Justice for Trayvon" vigils in front of federal courthouses around the country on Saturday, July 20, at noon. Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and her surviving son, Jahvaris Fulton, will be with Sharpton in New York City, while Tracy Martin will be with NAN and other supporters in Miami.
"If we allow the killing of an unarmed black teenager to be turned into some sort of circus where the responsible party blames the victim, then we have reached the height of absurdity," said Sharpton in a statement. "We will not get hopeless in this situation, we will get organized."
With more then 30 states observing "Stand your ground" laws, repeals won't come fast or easy. The law is often personalized in each state and draws on the "castle doctrine" (pdf), based on British common law. This law states that all persons have the right to defend themselves in their own homes. Sometimes its coverage extends to a person who perceives an unlawful threat outside the home, meaning that he or she does not have a duty to retreat.
Florida was the first state to adopt a "Stand your ground" law in 2005, thanks to the lobbying of the National Rifle Association, and the legislation has continued to spread.
So which states have "Stand your ground"? The following list of states includes links to more information about each state's law. Keep in mind that some states have specific jury instructions indicating that in cases of self-defense, a person does not have a duty to retreat.
North Dakota (pdf)
Hillary Crosley is the New York bureau chief at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.