Democratic Lawmakers Push To Repeal Stand Your Ground Law

Jan 17, 2013

In Florida, the mother of Trayvon Martin and Democratic lawmakers are calling for the repeal of the state’s so-called “stand-your-ground” law. The bill to repeal the law comes nearly a year after neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman shot and killed the unarmed teen. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, stood flanked by Democratic lawmakers who’ve filed legislation to throw out Florida’s first-in-the-nation law that says people can use deadly force if they feel threatened.

“As a parent, I just don’t quite understand how someone can be a make-believe cop, pursue my son who had every right to be in that neighborhood, chase him, get in a confrontation with him, shoot and kill him and not be arrested,” Fulton said.

Nearly a year ago Fulton’s son, Trayvon Martin, was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman was eventually arrested 44 days after the shooting. He is charged with second degree murder but is claiming self-defense under the law.

“Something has to be done.  We have to put our collective minds together. We have to strategize and we have to make changes to this law,” Fulton continued.

What Fulton is asking for was actually already done. Governor Rick Scott commissioned a 19 member task force in April to review the law but during the six months of traveling the state the group was heavily criticized for being packed with those who support the law. Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, the chair of the task force responded to critics in May.

“Out of the nineteen total members on this task force, I am unaware of the other fifteen members’ position on this law, whether they favor or disfavor this law. It is a mischaracterization for anyone to presume that this task force is not balanced,” Carroll said.

In the end, the task force didn’t come up with any major changes to law. It mostly asked for the law enforcement community to do a further review. Democratic Senator Dwight Bullard of Miami is co-sponsoring HB 4009, to repeal the 2005 stand your ground law saying the task force failed its job.

“We’ve been waiting for far too long and seeing too many cities to watch this dog and pony show to go around this state to come up with no recommendations….so we’re taking a pro-active stance, right now, here and now, here in the state of Florida to say that the law is an unjust law. What it is is legalized vigilantism and we can no longer as a state, stand for this,” Bullard said.

The original sponsor of stand your ground, Republican Representative Dennis Baxley of Ocala said overall, the law does what it’s supposed to and that is protect would be victims from violence.

“Look at how many people it’s prevented them being a rape victim, prevented them beating. Or being in a situation where they lost their life. I get emails and communications on all sides of this issue and I always think of the person we’ve protected from harm,” Baxley said.

Baxley said he believes the law helped reduce the number of violent crimes in the state since his bill went into effect.

“I understand the grief, but when you look at the public policy question it’s clear that what’s happened is we’ve seen less violence and we’ve prevented a lot of people from being victims from violence,” Baxley pointed out.

Baxley said he’s not hearing a lot of support for a repeal of his law, but he’s open to discussing and looking at ways to make improvements.

Zimmerman and his legal team have maintained throughout the case that shooting the unarmed seventeen year old was a matter of self-defense and not an intentional murder. February fifth would’ve been Trayvon Martin’s eighteenth birthday. Now it’s the day for his accused killer, George Zimmerman’s, next court hearing.