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Senate Panel Unanimously Approves Minor Changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law

| March 18, 2014

Michael Dunn, left, and George Zimmerman, who both killed black, unarmed teen-agers in what they claimed were self-defense acts, brought attention to Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which gives broad protection to shooters even in cases where self-defense is not clearly established.

Michael Dunn, left, and George Zimmerman, who both killed black, unarmed teen-agers in what they claimed were self-defense acts, brought attention to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which gives broad protection to shooters even in cases where self-defense is not clearly established.

A bipartisan bill that would tweak the controversial “stand your ground” self-defense law sailed through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, passing unanimously with the backing of both the National Rifle Association and Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown.

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The measure (SB 130) by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would make several changes recommended in 2012 by Gov. Rick Scott’s Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, which Scott appointed amid a national uproar that followed the shooting death of teen Trayvon Martin.

Many of the “stand your ground” law’s original backers said it was never intended to protect the aggressor in a deadly confrontation, and on Monday, the Senate panel spelled that out.

The bill would clarify that a law enforcement agency must fully investigate whether a person claiming self-defense has lawfully used force. It also would no longer preclude lawsuits from third parties who are injured by negligent conduct used in self-defense.

The measure would also require the Department of Law Enforcement to develop a training curriculum for participants in neighborhood crime-watch programs and require local law-enforcement agencies to apply the curriculum when training program participants.

Stacy Scott said the bill would also clarify the roles of law enforcement officers and neighborhood-watch volunteers. She said it also would clarify the role of immunity hearings that are used to determine if someone can invoke “stand your ground” in self-defense.

” ‘Stand your ground’ is not to be used for vigilantism, for revenge or as an excuse to confront people,” she said.

When six weeks went by without charges being filed against Sanford neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s acknowledged shooter, protests spread across the country.

The bill represents the first significant compromise since Zimmerman was acquitted last year of second-degree murder charges in Martin’s death. Just a week ago, Brown helped civil-rights activist Al Sharpton lead 1,000 people to the Capitol to protest “stand your ground”‘ and to declare Florida “ground zero” in the fight to fix or repeal it.


The first significant compromise since Zimmerman was acquitted last year of second-degree murder charges in Martin’s death.


“It’s incumbent upon this committee, it’s incumbent upon this Legislature, to say something about the law this year,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who also marched last week.

“People on this committee and those that were here to vote for (the original law) … are constantly saying, ‘It’s not what we intended, It’s not what we intended, It’s not what we intended.’ Well, we have about 50 days now to say what we intended,” Smith said.

Smith and Simmons, who helped pass the 2005 bill that became “stand your ground,” addressed the committee together. Simmons’ measure includes a bill by Smith (SB 122) that was folded into it last fall.

Several members of the Scott task force were on hand to support the bill, including NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer, the Rev. R.B. Holmes, who co-chaired the task force, and Stacy Scott, who represented the Florida Public Defender Association.


Brown brought her congressional colleague, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, who told lawmakers that homicide has gone up in states with “stand your ground” laws.

The House companion to Simmons’ bill hasn’t moved forward, although it was filed in August.

Smith said he’d spoken with House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, who was the House sponsor of “stand your ground” in 2005, and that the House is waiting for the Senate to act before making its own move.

“You cannot fix everything the first time,” Hammer said. “When you try to do too much is when you create problems. We’re taking it one step at a time. … And if we didn’t get it right, we’ll fix it. But we’re comfortable with what we have today.”

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

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11 Responses for “Senate Panel Unanimously Approves Minor Changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law”

  1. So sad says:

    Dana Mulhall was murdered 2 years ago this month in Flagler by a man claiming he felt threatened. Never forgotten by those who loved him.

  2. Hagon says:

    ” ‘Stand your ground’ is not to be used for vigilantism, for revenge or as an excuse to confront people,” she said……..Can it be used to ” Fight the War on Government Corruption and Communist Take over ?

    • A.S.F. says:

      @Hagon says–Maybe it can be used to fight space aliens. I am sure some Tea Baggers might be able to get their minds around that, given how they salivate like Pitbulls at the mention of the word “alien.”

  3. Mary Cannady says:

    No one should argue with this common sense ruling.

  4. w.ryan says:

    I simple don’t see what was wrong with the way that self defense was handle before this volatile law was passed! Wasn’t every assault and homicides investigated and all corroborating evidence analysed? Meeting in the middle of the road doesn’t solve this crisis. It’s just irrational compromise. Eliminate this law. It’s not needed!

    • Steven Nobile says:

      I think one of the biggest issues solved by this law is that even after a self defense hearing is proven to be have been self defense, the person protecting them self is open to civil law suits. That’s just wrong I think.

      • A.S.F. says:

        Facts that are suppressed by the defense that might be relevant to the case but are viewed as being too incriminating/self-incriminating are often not allowed into evidence in a criminal proceeding. The court tends to bend over backwards in these instances because judges do not like their rulings to be overthrown on appeal. However, in a civil action, this may not happen. An example of this is the OJ trial. The court found against him in the civil action for that precise reason. It is another avenue victims have to explore, especially when criminal court has let them down. One would think staunch Republicans would understand this point. But, then again, probably only when it suits them to do so.

  5. Standing My Ground says:

    I don’t know how any of you could want this law repealled, every state without a similar stand your ground law REQUIRES you to flee from a violent attack NO MATTER the circumstance before you can legally try to defend yourself in any manner. The SYG laws simply allow you to defend yourself from attack from the moment it begins,and where it begins. THAT is common sense, not trying to run away only to be killed another day.

    • A.S.F. says:

      @Standing My Ground says–And what if YOU are “where it begins?’ It’s pretty alarming to think that there are so many people out there who labor under the paranoid belief system that so many teeming masses lurk in the shadows just waiting for an opportunity to get them–and they are willing to strap a gun on for the inevitable day when it will happen, using “Stand Your Ground” as an excuse to let loose with a barrage of bullets.. The police don’t make them feel safe. Reflex rules over reason. A person with prejudices simmering barely simmering beneath the surface goes out one day with an axe to grind and not too much stopping him/her from grinding it in some innocent person’s face because MAYBE they feel threatened and had nothing to stop them from using the weapon in their pocket–including common sense. No need to worry about the consequences of YOUR actions. If you happened to be wrong and really had nothing to fear in the first place, you can say, OOPSIE, I’M SORRY THIS PERSON IS DEAD BUT I GUESSED WRONG AND BELIEVED THEY HAD IT COMING…I WAS STANDING MY GROUND. Now, let me go scot-free so I can strap my gun back on and maybe do it again. Anyone who looks like someone I don’t like, resent or fear, you better get out of my way if I’m having a bad day! The fact is, self-defense was already taken into consideration before “Stand Your Ground” ever existed. This law ENCOURAGES prejudice and vigilantism. It’s a bad law because it encourages the worst in too many people. Period.

  6. michael burdick says:

    Homicides have gone up since stand your ground? I dont see the problem… just means more dirtbags in the ground than back on the streets.

  7. A.S.F. says:

    The Florida legislature is apparently not through yet in their determined effort to display both arrogance and ignorance. This is a story from TODAY’S headlines: After the Tampa Bay Times review of 2000 cases involving Stand Your Ground found gross disparities in both application and outcomes, a Republican State Representative from Fort Walton Beach, Matt Gaetz, filed an amendment that would severely limit access to court records in self defense cases, making it more difficult for the media to discover and report on such abuses. What is that they say about accountability? If you have no doubts about the rightfulness of the SYG law, then why restrict information regarding its actual outcomes in the real world? Conservatives should be so proud! Especially on the same day that the illustrious Donald Rumsfield said that “a trained ape” would better at foreign policy than our current president. What a Patriot! And given the foreign policy performance of the Bush administration when he was a key player in power, what an extraordinary thing to say (and NOT in a good way!)

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