An African American legislator in Florida is pushing a revision of the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law aimed at tempering the statute that has been used as a self-defense shield in shootings involving unarmed victims.
State Sen. Chris Smith, in proposed legislation submitted to the state’s Legislature, wants to remove the presumption of immunity for people who respond to a threat with deadly force, and wants to allow law enforcement officials to question and detain a shooter who invokes the "stand your ground" defense.
The bill is the product of a panel he established as an alternative to one created by Gov. Rick Smith (R) in the wake of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black Miami-Dade County teenager nearly a year ago by an armed neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla.
Two of the proposed revisions would give judges, police and prosecutor’s guidance in determining the veracity of dubious “stand your ground” claims. The bill would also require law enforcement officials to collect and maintain data on incidents where the shooter alleges justifiable use of force.
The Black lawmaker’s bill was forged from input by defense attorneys, educators, law enforcement representatives and prosecutors.
“The tragic shooting in Sanford, Florida, earlier this year, was a call to action,” said Smith, a Democrat from Ft. Lauderdale, in a statement in December. “It underscored the ease with which an aggressor can dodge prosecution simply by claiming fear of bodily harm. And it underscored the abuse of the law by non-law abiding citizens and the confusion law enforcement faced about its basic provisions.”
The governor’s panel, headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the state’s first Black lieutenant governor and a lifetime National Rifle Association member, did not produce similar recommendations.
"We reaffirm the validity of the legislation that was enacted in 2005 and the importance of the ability of a truly innocent victim to be able to stand his or her ground" if they are attacked, said state Sen. David Simmons, a Republican, who helped draft the law.
The governor’s panel studied the law for six months and conducted seven public hearings. The panel included two lawmakers who sponsored the original “Stand Your Ground” legislation, and a third legislator who sponsored and passed the "Docs v. Glocks" bill, a measure that would grant carry permits to pediatricians.