WASHINGTON, DC – Democrats backed off of their effort Tuesday to offer a “Trayvon amendment” to pressure states to drop their stand-your-ground laws after learning it was likely to be ruled out of order under the evening’s rules for debate on the House floor.
Rep. Keith Ellison, Minnesota Democrat, said he will still try to force a debate at a more “appropriate” time in the future, saying action is demanded by the case of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who police said was shot dead in a street encounter with a neighborhood watch volunteer.
The Ellison amendment would have docked federal criminal justice grants to states that have stand-your-ground laws, which allow residents to use deadly force to respond to an attack without first having to retreat.
Florida’s version of the law has come under scrutiny after Trayvon’s death. George Zimmermann, a neighborhood watch volunteer, has been charged with murder in the case.
“Shoot-first laws make prosecutions harder because they presume the use of deadly force is reasonable,” Mr. Ellison said on the House floor Tuesday as he explained why he wanted to raise his amendment.
His plan would have docked states with such laws 20 percent of their money under the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, which are used to fund a wide array of programs, from law enforcement to drug treatment to jails and prosecutor’s offices. Mr. Ellison said nearly half of all states now have stand-your-ground laws.
He had wanted to raise the amendment as part of the House’s debate over the Justice Department spending bill.
But the way the amendment was drawn made it out of order.
Trayvon’s case has divided the country and prompted a heated debate, including in Congress, where one congressman was escorted off the House floor for wearing a “hoodie” sweatshirt while speaking. Rep. Bobbie Rush, Illinois Democrat, said he wore the garment as a statement against racial profiling.