Will Democratic bill reviewing Stand Your Ground even get a look in the Florida Legislature?

The odds of getting the bill passed through the House Judiciary Committee, its first stop, appear to be long. That committee is chaired by Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley, the original author of the Stand Your Ground law in the Florida House.


But the Miami Herald argues in its editorial pages that the law at least needs to be seriously re-examined.


A governor’s committee, formed after the Feb. 26 shooting, has already decreed the law basically fine as is. That rubber-stamp approval was predictable. The 19-member committee — which included two lawmakers who helped draft the law, two who had voted for it and one who was chief sponsor of another NRA-backed law prohibiting doctors from asking patients about guns — spent six months traveling the state, taking testimony and considering the law before concluding it needs almost no tweaking. That was disappointing.


Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle proposed several significant changes to restrict the law. They were mostly rejected by the other task force members. Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, offered the group several recommendations from a task force he had commissioned in April. Most were not adopted by the state’s task force.


But the committee did emerge with some proposed changes. It recommended the Legislature look more closely at the language determining who could claim self-defense under the Stand Your Ground law. It recommended changes to discourage neighborhood watch volunteers from engaging in vigilantism, and it asked the Legislature and the law enforcement community to spend more time clarifying what the law means for police.


Making the law more specific, less murky, would be a start.


Meanwhile, a recently released study shows that in states that have passed Stand Your Ground laws over the past decade, homicides have gone up by an average of eight percent.


Mark Hoekstra, an economist with Texas A&M University who examined stand your ground laws, told NPR that "Our study finds that, as a result, you get more of it." The "it" being homicides.


Hoekstra obtained this result by comparing the homicide rate in states before and after they passed the laws. He also compared states with the laws to states without the laws.


"We find that there are 500 to 700 more homicides per year across the 23 states as a result of the laws," he said. There are about 14,000 homicides annually in the United States as a whole.


Another study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research said that states with Stand Your Ground laws are associated with, "a significant increase in the number of homicides among whites, especially white males. According to our estimates, between 28 and 33 additional white males are killed each month as a result of these laws. We find no consistent evidence to suggest that these laws increase homicides among blacks."

Last week, the mother of Trayvon Martin called on Florida legislators to support a bill that would repeal Florida's extremely controversial Stand Your Ground law.

Speaking to reporters outside the Senate chambers in Tallahassee, Sabrina Fulton said, "We need to do something seriously about this law," referring to the 2005 Florida self-defense statute that allows people who fear for their lives to use lethal force to protect themselves. The law has become the focal point of the case against George Zimmerman, who was involved in an argument with unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon that resulted in Martin's shooting death last February.

Reuters reported that her voice broke as she fought back tears.

"As a parent I wouldn't want you to stand in my shoes because it is hard. It is difficult," she said.

That bill (yet to be filed) is being sponsored in the Senate by Miami Democrat Dwight Bullard and Tallahassee Representative Alan Williams, and is considered a long-shot in the NRA-friendly confines of the state capitol, where Stand Your Ground first originated before spreading across the nation.

Williams wants the "no duty to retreat" and "use of deadly force" language removed from the current law. "Although it may work 75-percent of the time, that 25-percent of the time, those cases, we have to fix the laws for those individuals. Because guess what, at the end of the day, one life lost is too many," Williams was quoted as saying by WTXL-Television in Tallahassee.

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