Disability Rights Arkansas Executive Director Tom Masseau has signed onto the following letter, along with people with disabilities, their families, and disability advocates from across the state, regarding our shared opposition to Senate Bill 24, more commonly known as the Stand Your Ground Law.
Dear Honorable Members of the House Judiciary Committee:
In the coming days, you will be charged with reviewing and voting on Arkansas Senate Bill 24 (SB
24), better known as “Stand Your Ground” legislation. As you prepare for this responsibility, you will
hear from many Arkansans and groups representing Arkansans concerned about the danger SB 24
poses to specific populations in our state, including Black Arkansans and law enforcement. There is a
substantial amount of research, data, and case evidence to suggest that SB 24 would create a more
dangerous environment for each of these groups and others.
Passage of SB 24 presents a significant threat to the safety and wellbeing of Arkansans
with disabilities and the people who support them. As representatives of the disability
community in Arkansas, we ask you to consider the following as you make a decision about the
vote you will cast on SB 24:
- Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Autism, communication
disabilities, physical disabilities, neurological disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities often
communicate and engage in social interactions that are frequently misunderstood and
misinterpreted by people who are not familiar with them. Without a legal duty to retreat,
misinterpretations and misunderstandings of these engagements pose a major threat to the
safety and wellbeing of individuals with disabilities.
- In 2006, Joseph Erin Hamley, an Arkansas man with Cerebral Palsy was shot and killed by
law enforcement officers when the physical limitations of his disability caused his movements
to be perceived as threatening gestures and an imminent threat.
- In 2013, Ethan Saylor, a Maryland man with Down Syndrome was killed by law enforcement
when he refused to leave a movie theater at the end of his movie and resisted aggressively
as his support provider warned that he would.
- In 2016, Charles Kinsey, a Florida Direct Support Professional supporting an individual with
Autism to deescalate during a crisis situation was shot by law enforcement officers when his
interaction with the person he supported was misinterpreted as a threat.
- In all three situations, skilled law enforcement officers, trained in assessing imminent danger,
were unable to accurately interpret the interactions of people with disabilities resulting in
serious injury and death. The expectation that unskilled and untrained citizens will be able to
better assess a perceived threat and make a decision to use lethal force in similar situations
without the obligation to retreat when they can safely do so is problematic and dangerous
for people with disabilities and the people who support them.
As Arkansans with disabilities, family members of Arkansans with disabilities, disability provider
agencies, and disability advocates, we are deeply concerned about the serious consequences the
passage of SB 24 would have on the entire disability community in Arkansas. We ask that you
consider the safety and wellbeing of all Arkansans with disabilities and the Arkansans who them
as you cast your vote on Arkansas’ “Stand Your Ground” legislation and vote “NO” on SB 24.
Disability Rights Arkansas