Florida Lawmakers Call for Repeal of “Stand Your Ground” Law
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According to Reuters, Democratic leaders in Florid’a legislature are calling for either an overhaul or repeal of the state’s “stand your ground” self defense statute. They want the governor to call a special legislative sessions to allow for debate and changes to the law to be made.
The call comes less than a week after Florida jurors acquitted George Zimmerman of all charges in the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin. Parts of Florida’ stand your ground law were included in the jury instructions, specifically noting that Zimmerman had no duty to retreat from a physical encounter with Martin.
Shortly after the 2012 shooting, the governor appointed a task force to examine the law. After a number of hearings the task force found that the statute was lawful and required no change.
According to the Reuters report,
“This bill actually encourages people to shoot their way out of situations and that’s not how we live in a civilized society,” [Democratic leader Chris] Smith told a news conference. “It’s a mentality that has permeated the state of Florida. It’s a mentality of shoot first, and we should not have that in a civilized society.”
The governor stands by his original statements and the findings of the 2012 task force.
“Tonight, the protesters again asked that I call a special session of the legislature to repeal Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. I told them that I agree with the Task Force on Citizen Safety, which concurred with the law,” Scott said in a statement.
Without support from the governor’s office, Democrats say they may try to repeal the law through a ballot initiative during the next election.
Stand your ground is the common name for self defense laws that do not require the victim of a crime to attempt to retreat before resorting to deadly force.
Over 30 states have “stand your ground” laws, “castle doctrines”, or rely on case law supporting no duty to retreat when looking into self defense cases.
Proponents say the laws protect victims of crime from becoming criminals themselves while opponents argue the laws make people more likely to get into physical altercations and resort to force more quickly.
The move to analyze the law comes less than a week following the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial. Zimmerman was accused of second degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman claimed self defense in the shooting. It should be noted that Zimmerman claimed a “classic self defense” defense, and not a defense under Florida’s stand your ground law. However, some have argued that the law’s existence is one of the reasons Zimmerman confronted Martin.