ALEC Castle Doctrine
CONNECTING THE DOTS BETWEEN ALEC, WAL-MART, THE NRA, AND THE FLORIDA LAW CITED BY SOME TO IMMUNIZE TRAYVON MARTIN’S KILLER
(Prepared 3-23-12 by Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, and Nick Surgey, then-Staff Counsel of Common Cause)
- Early on the evening of February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, 17, an African-American, in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Trayvon, whose body was not identified until days later, was walking home after buying Skittles and tea. Zimmerman claimed the shooting was in self-defense. Citing a recent Florida statute known as the “shoot first” law or “Castle Doctrine,” police did not charge Zimmerman and did not seize the gun used to kill Trayvon.
- That Florida law became the template for “model” legislation endorsed and promoted nationally by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a non-profit entity funded by major corporations and interest groups including Koch Industries and the National Rifle Association (NRA). The bill expanded the long-standing right of self-defense by extending criminal and civil immunity to shooters who feel threatened by another, creating a statutory “right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force. . .”
- ALEC has an annual budget of approximately $7 million and claims that hundreds of its model bills become law each year. It hides its inner workings, including the fact that its model bills often are drafted and always are pre-approved by corporations and lobbyists. ALEC calls itself the nation’s largest group of state legislators, but 98% of its funding comes from corporations and sources other than dues from elected officials.
- In August 2005, in Grapevine, Tex., NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer asked legislators and lobbyists at a closed-door meeting of ALEC’s "Criminal Justice Task Force" to adopt the Florida "Castle Doctrine" bill as an ALEC model bill. The NRA said her pitch "was well received," and the bill was approved "unanimously."
- At that time, ALEC’s public-private Criminal Justice Task Force was co-chaired by Wal-Mart -- the nation’s largest seller of guns and ammunition. ALEC’s staffer for the task force was Chris Oswald a former “State Liaison” for the NRA.
- Corporate representatives and state legislators on ALEC Task Forces have equal votes on proposed model legislation, so the Florida law was ratified by Wal-Mart and its 2005 public sector co-chair, Texas Rep. Ray Allen, along with other state legislators and corporate lobbyists. It was endorsed by a representative of the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation, according to minutes of the meeting issued by ALEC.
- In September 2005, that bill was adopted by ALEC's National Board of Directors, which has a procedure to allow model bills to be approved if there is no objection. The public sector portion of the board was chaired by Georgia state Rep. Earl Ehrhart; the corporate board included Koch Industries, Altria (parent of Philip Morris), Coors, Bell South, and Verizon. (ALEC says its corporate board does not vote. Corporations and elected officials have an equal vote in the task forces, where model bills are adopted, however.)
- At the next ALEC Criminal Justice Task Force meeting, in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, in 2006, the NRA’s representative to ALEC, Tara Mica, reported on the “continued success” in securing passage of ALEC’s “Castle Doctrine” bill in other states.
- In 2007, an ALEC "Legislative Report Card" boasted that the ALEC/NRA Castle Doctrine bill had been introduced or passed in numerous states. ALEC also highlighted ALEC legislators who had introduced versions of the model bill, including Texas state Sen. Jeff Wentworth and Rep. Joe Driver.
- To date, more than two dozen states have adopted Castle Doctrine bills with ALEC/NRA DNA. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, an ALEC alum, signed into law an NRA-backed bill with some provisions similar to the ALEC bill in 2011. Similar bills are pending in other states.
- NRA President Wayne LaPierre said NRA lobbyist and former president Hammer "conceived" of the Florida bill and lobbied it into law. She ridiculed opponents of the bill, calling them hysterical, and helped the bill’s co-sponsors, Florida state Sen. Durell Peaden (R-Crestview) and Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), get it passed.
- In 2005, Peaden was an ALEC leader, serving on the Executive Committee of the "Health and Human Services Task Force."
- Baxley, a former head of the Christian Coalition in Florida, is also a member of ALEC. His legislative résumé includes sponsorship of bills creating license plates honoring the Confederacy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Opponents of the "Castle Doctrine" bill predicted it would immunize racially motivated killers. Baxley recently said the law should not protect Trayvon Martin's shooter.
- As noted by ALECexposed.org, ALEC's current crime task force, which continues to endorse the ALEC/NRA Castle Doctrine, includes Florida Rep. Ray Pilon.
- The NRA has pushed several other ALEC "model" bills to change state laws on firearms:
- National Rifle Association - Institute for Legislative Action, NRA Presents ALEC Model Legislation in Grapevine, Texas, organizational legislative update, August 12, 2005
- Brendan Fischer, ALEC Ratified NRA-Conceived Law That May Protect Trayvon Martin's Killer, PRWatch.org, March 21, 2012
- American Legislative Exchange Council, Criminal Justice Task Force, organizational task force description and co-chair listing showing Wal-Mart Stores as "Private Sector Chair," 2005
- American Legislative Exchange Council, Minutes, organizational minutes of 2006 Spring Task Force Summit Criminal Justice Task Force Meeting and 2005 Annual Meeting Criminal Justice Task Force Meeting, 2005 and 2006
- American Legislative Exchange Council "ALEC 101" PR document, Telling the ALEC Story, as of 2011
- American Legislative Exchange Council, Legislative Scorecard, organizational document archived by the "WayBack Machine," archive.org, November 6, 2008
- National Rifle Association - Institute for Legislative Action, Maps of State Legislation, organizational legislative page archived by the "WayBack Machine," archive.org, January 11, 2011
- NRA Lobbyist Watches Jeb Sign, Photo available via Blogwood 2.0, April 27, 2005
- Manuel Roig-Franzia, NRA plans to push expanded gun law beyond Florida: Measure urges fights, some say, Washington Post via The Boston Globe, May 1, 2005
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Durell Peaden, Jr., government biography, 2005
- Judd Legum, Opponents Of Florida’s 2005 'Stand Your Ground' Law Predicted ‘Racially Motivated Killings’, ThinkProgress, March 21, 2012
- Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force, SourceWatch article on ALEC task force, accessed March 2012