After the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch guard who killed 17-year old Trayvon Martin, gun-control advocates made a major push for the state of Florida to repeal the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. That push, however, sadly saw defeat last week as the Florida House struck the repeal bill.
Not only was the repeal shot down, lawmakers “enthusiastically approved” a new measure in the Stand Your Ground law to protect firing warning shots.
In a five-hour long hearing before the Florida House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, where 300 people were in attendance, lawmakers placed their votes. However, despite the overwhelming support for a repeal, the repeal motion lost by a 2-11 margin in the justice committee.
Tallahassee Democrat Rep. Alan Williams said the repeal had “everything to do with making sure we keep our streets and our communities and our neighborhoods safe.”
Republican lawmakers argue that institution of the laws are what actually makes people safer. Marianna Republican Rep. Marti Coley said that “Our state is a safer place and has the lowest crime rate in 42 years.” Just because the crime rate may have reportedly dropped, that doesn’t necessarily mean that things are “safer.”
Since the law’s passage in 2005, gun deaths in Florida have been on the increase. By 2010, five years after Stand Your Ground was enacted, justifiable homicide tripled. In 2009, there was a justified killing twice a week on average.
The Tampa Bay Times once reported that claiming Stand Your Ground is more recognized when there is a black victim, at 73 percent versus the 59 percent when the victim is white.
In a comprehensive report examining over 200 Stand Your Ground cases, the Times found that in 160 cases, the victim was unarmed, compared to 75 cases where the victim was. Also, in 135 instances the defendant could have avoided conflict altogether, while it wasn’t in 36 cases.
The warning shot provision passed with a 12-1 margin and final passage is now in the hands of the Florida Legislature. A recent poll by Quinnipiac University indicated that Americans favor Stand Your Ground laws by 53 – 49 percent. The split in opinion fell greatly along race and gender lines.
The support of Stand Your Ground laws are at total odds with the rampant increase of gun deaths that are associated with such legislation.
Florida State Rep. Williams attested that he will commit to repealing Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. He said, “If we can’t repeal, we must repair.”
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.