Attempt to Repeal Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Law Fails
A panel of state lawmakers on Thursday soundly rejected a proposal to repeal the Stand Your Ground self-defense law, but enthusiastically approved a pitch to expand Stand Your Ground immunity to people who fire a warning shot.
The votes took place at a highly anticipated hearing that lasted five hours before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Nearly 300 people attended, and scores signed up to give their opinion on the controversial law.
Rep. Alan Williams, a Tallahassee Democrat, said his push to repeal Stand Your Ground had “everything to do with making sure we keep our streets and our communities and our neighborhoods safe.”
“We have had a number of cases that have shown us over and over that the law as adopted in 2005 isn’t working,” Williams said.
But a half-dozen lawmakers, some of whom weren’t on the subcommittee, came to the defense of Stand Your Ground.
“Today, our state is a safer place and has the lowest crime rate in 42 years,” said Rep. Marti Coley, a Marianna Republican. “Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is solid. It’s good and should not be changed.”
Said Democratic Rep. Katie Edwards, of Plantation: “The people I represent, the people we represent, need not be required, or have imposed upon them, a duty to retreat… I won’t turn my back on responsible self-defense laws.”
The committee shot down the repeal bill in a 2-11 vote.
The two supporters: Democrats Rep. Kionne McGhee, of Miami, and Randolph Bracy, of Orlando.
The hearing followed a tempestuous summer which saw neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager from Miami.
Zimmerman did not claim a Stand Your Ground defense, but language from the law was included in the jury instructions.
Following the acquittal, a group of young activists known as the Dream Defenders held a 31-day protest outside Gov. Rick Scott’s office to demand a special legislative session on the self-defense law. Scott refused to call lawmakers to Tallahassee, but House Speaker Will Weatherford agreed to a hearing on the law in the fall.
From the time it was filed, the repeal bill was a long shot in the Republican-dominated Legislature.