Lawmaker withdraws bill after threats

Measure would have limited self-defense rights

By

Published:

 

OLYMPIA -- A Washington lawmaker last week withdrew a bill to limit self-defense rights after saying she received threats by telephone and email that have made her fear for her life.

Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, said House Bill 1012, filed last month, was spurred by the Trayvon Martin shooting last February, in which a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida shot dead the unarmed Martin, 17, after confronting him on the street.

The shooter, George Zimmerman, was not immediately arrested after the shooting, with local law enforcement citing Florida's "stand your ground" law as justification for his actions. Zimmerman was subsequently arrested and charged with second-degree murder last April. His case is pending.

Appleton's bill would have required a person to retreat from a dangerous confrontation whenever that person "knows or should know" that doing so would afford "complete safety."

"I was so appalled by the Trayvon Martin shooting," Appleton said. "I did the bill because we have no verbiage on 'duty to retreat' in Washington."

Washington is one of at least 29 states with no explicit duty to retreat. Some other states employ a "castle doctrine," exempting a person in his home from the duty to retreat.

Appleton said her bill was written in September, and she lamented that it was caught up in the reignited national debate over guns in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., in which 26 people, including 20 children, were killed.

"It's unfortunate, because Newtown happened, and that riled up so many people," Appleton said. "I think it would have gone unnoticed if it hadn't been for Newtown."

The threats against Appleton, which were among the more than a hundred emails and telephone calls she received about the bill after reports of it circulated on gun advocacy websites, were nonspecific but "very scary," said her assistant, Donna Bezon.

Bezon declined to provide copies of emails or transcripts of voice messages to The Associated Press, saying she wanted to spare Appleton, who has not seen the worst of them, the details contained therein. But she said the most concerning included information about where Appleton lived.

One advised the lawmaker to heed the lesson of an unnamed lawyer who had defended "murderers and rapists" but who had changed his allegiances after his family was attacked, Bezon said.