GOP lawmaker tried to silence a black senator in a gun law debate. She stood her ground – and won. | TribLIVE.com
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GOP lawmaker tried to silence a black senator in a gun law debate. She stood her ground – and won.

The Washington Post
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Stephanie Flowers

Debate on gun legislation reached a crescendo at the Arkansas state capitol Wednesday when a senator fervently denounced a bill that would make it easier to use lethal force in the name of self-defense.

The bill, sponsored by three Republican state senators, would remove a clause from the current law that required a “duty to retreat” in self-defense cases. Previous efforts to push similar “stand your ground” laws in the state, under both Democratic and Republican legislatures, have all failed within the last decade, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

But on Wednesday, Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D, spoke up when some members of the state’s Judiciary Committee tried to limit debate time on the issue – delivering an ardent monologue to explain why “stand your ground” laws are dangerous, particularly for people and communities of color.

“I am the only person here of color. I am a mother, too, and I have a son,” Flowers said. “And I care as much for my son as y’all care for yours. But my son doesn’t walk the same path as yours does. So this debate deserves more time.”

Addressing gun rights supporters in the room, Flowers said it was “crazy” to limit debate on such a sensitive issue. The senator again invoked her 27-year-old son, adding she was glad he no longer lives in Arkansas.

“You don’t have to worry about your children … I have to worry about my son, and I worry about other little black boys and girls,” she said. “And people coming into my neighborhood, into my city, saying they have open carry rights walking down in front of my doggone office in front of the courthouse. That’s a bully!”

Flowers said she was “scared” and “threatened” by the notion, and cited instances where people had entered the legislature while carrying guns under their coats, adding “you can see the damn print!”

Before she could continue, Flowers was interrupted by the committee chairman Sen. Alan Clark, R.

“Senator, you need to stop talking,” he whispered.

“No, I don’t!” Flowers lashed back.

“Yes, you do,” Clark replied

“No, I don’t,” Flowers said. “What the hell you gonna do, shoot me?”

“Senator . .. “ Clark said, in an apparent effort to calm her.

“Senator s-. Go to hell. I’m telling you, this deserves more attention.”

Flowers walked out of the committee room before returning to hear other groups speak out against the bill, including the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police and the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association, according to the Democrat-Gazette. The measure was narrowly shot down in a 4-3 vote, with one Republican joining the opposing group.

Video of Flowers’ unrelenting defense was shared widely Friday, drawing praise from those inspired by her fearlessness. Some found the timing of the video to be fitting as Friday also marked International Women’s Day.

The bill’s primary sponsor will attempt reintroduce the bill Monday to get one more “yes” vote, local NBC affiliate KARK reported.

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