VALPARAISO | Nearly 50 people gathered Saturday evening at the Porter County Courthouse to learn about Indiana’s so-called Stand Your Ground law and how it affects them and their families and communities.
The public gathering, organized by longtime Valparaiso resident Robert Cotton, featured talks from Valparaiso Chief of Police Michael Brickner, state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, and Ivan Bodensteiner of the Valparaiso University Law School.
Tallian, who said she originally voted for the Indiana law, which removes the duty to retreat before using force in self-defense, said she has since changed her mind.
“I don’t know that I’d vote for it again,” Tallian said, to audience applause.
Tallian said she is specifically opposed to the “attitude” behind the law.
“It’s not the words of the Stand Your Ground law that we need to look at,” said Tallian. “It’s the attitude and how we teach our children to deal with challenges. Using the words as an excuse for macho, vigilante behavior is not socially acceptable.”
Cotton said he wanted to host a public forum and get people “involved in having a conversation about these laws.”
“This is not about race, it’s about law,” Cotton said. “It’s a nonpartisan civic activity that falls in line with what our commander in chief has suggested.”
Cotton also read the written comments of other invited speakers who could not attend, including Valparaiso University’s the Rev. James Wetzstein, who urged unity and tolerance.
“The task that all of us share is the task of finding common ground for the common good,” Wetzstein wrote.
Connie Witmer, of Valparaiso, said she attended the rally because of the “publicity of the Trayvon Martin case” in Florida.
“We didn’t even know Indiana had the same law,” Witmer said. “I want to know how it affects us.”
Neil Blackman, of Valparaiso, conceded he is “pretty strong” in his belief against Stand Your Ground laws, but he said he is willing to listen to others’ opinions.
“This is a pretty hot topic because of the Trayvon Martin case in the news,” Blackman said. “I’ve done some research and I wanted to learn more about the topic just to get different views.”