Fla. Lawmakers Hoping To Tweak Stand Your Ground Appear Optimistic Ahead Of Hearing

Oct 7, 2013

A state lawmaker seeking to make changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law says he’s optimistic ahead of a hearing set to review his bill. It’s one of two bills a group of legislators are expected to take up in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning.

One of the bills was filed by Altamonte Springs Republican Senator David Simmons, the author of Stand Your Ground. Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith filed the other.

“It was huge to get it heard, just getting it heard was a big step in the legislature this year, and I’m proud that we’re able to get this far,” said Smith.

It’s the second time both Simmons and Smith are filing the measures, neither of which has ever gotten a hearing. But Smith says this time around, there’s a bipartisan consensus on what the Senate wants to do.

“We need to send a message that it’s not okay to pursue someone and claim Stand Your Ground. It’s not okay to resort to violence and then claim Stand Your Ground. We need to send a message that Stand Your Ground should be a last resort…that what happened in Sanford is not what we consider a civilized society,” added Smith.

While Simmons agrees his bill is similar to Smith’s, Simmons says he disagrees with a provision in Smith’s bill that redefines the term “aggressor.”

“That means you can’t be the person who provokes the use of force and I’ve read what Senator Smith has put together, and he’s actually loosened the definition in his attempt to deal with it, so that people who are not normally able to obtain the benefits of Stand Your Ground or self-defense under our existing law would be able to do under his,” said Simmons.

Still, Simmons says he agrees with Smith on most other provisions, and the two are ironing out differences ahead of the hearing.

"I look forward to any good ideas that Senator Smith or any of my other colleagues put forth that will improve this very good law," he added.

Both bills also include provisions mandating law enforcement fully investigate Stand Your Ground claims and putting guidelines in place for local neighborhood watch programs across the state.

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