Florida State Rep. Shevrin Jones says the time is now for Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law to be taken off of the books once and for all.
HB 6073, sponsored by Jones, D-West Park, would repeal Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which authorizes Floridians to protect themselves in the case of fear of death or bodily harm.
Similar measures filed in previous legislative sessions failed to gain traction and died in committee. The last time a bill was filed to repeal the law was in 2013.
At its core, Florida’s Stand Your Ground law removes the duty to retreat and justifies the use of deadly force in self-defense.
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has been on the books since 2005, but it garnered national attention in 2014 during the Trayvon Martin case, where defendant George Zimmerman claimed he was using self-defense when he shot the black teenager to death in Florida.
Zimmerman was acquitted for the crime.
Jones said part of his inspiration to file the legislation came from what he saw as a serious disconnect between people invoking Stand Your Ground for the right reasons or simply as a cop-out for aggressive behavior.
“The stand your ground law has evolved into something no longer about self-defense, but has become a legalized way for bad actors to get away with aggression, mal intent, and fatal violence,” Jones claimed.
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has seen some changes throughout the years, most notably last year when
Gov. Rick Scott signed a measure into law flipping the responsibility onto prosecutors to prove defendants weren’t acting in self-defense during “Stand Your Ground” cases.
The new law gives defendants more protection from prosecution in “Stand Your Ground” cases by requiring prosecutors to prove whether a defendant is entitled to immunity at a pretrial hearing in order to disprove a claim of self-defense immunity.
The legislation shifts the responsibility onto the prosecutor to prove why a defendant shouldn’t be allowed to use the Stand Your Ground defense in court.
Jones said he didn’t believe the controversial law made Florida a safer place and said an increase in homicides resulted from Stand Your Ground.
Florida’s murder rate did increase during the first half of 2016, but part of the jump was attributed to the Pulse Nightclub shooting where 49 people died in June 2016.
Other studies have shown the state’s murder rate did increase since 2005, but it is unknown whether the legalization of Stand Your Ground is the real cause of the jump.
Statistics for 2017’s murder rate were not available.
Gun groups trashed the legislation, saying it would be a roadblock to public safety in the Sunshine State.
“Since self-defense rights were fully restored in 2005, a law-abiding person no longer has to try to run away or escape when under attack before fighting back,” National Rifle Association past president and lobbyist Marion Hammer told Sunshine State News Tuesday. “Fighting back to protect yourself from thugs who assault you is your right. Bad guys don’t like that.”
Hammer said it was “no surprise” that “anti-gun, anti-self defense” legislators kept trying to repeal the law.
“This should be called the Home Invasion Criminal Protection Act of 2018,” Florida Carry president Sean Caranna told SSN. “It's not just bad public policy. If enacted, it will cost innocent lives while serving only to protect violent criminals.”
The bill will undoubtedly have a difficult time passing in the Republican-controlled legislature, which has routinely supported gun rights and passed pro-gun legislation in recent years.
The bill has been referred to the House Criminal Justice, Justice Appropriations and Judiciary committees, but had no official hearing date at the time of this publication.