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National GOP Platform Includes 'Stand Your Ground'

September 4, 2012 - 6:00pm

Controversial "stand your ground" laws that have come into the spotlight since the shooting of Trayvon Martin have found their way into the Republican Party's national platform.

Nestled in the massive document, which outlines in minute detail the national party's agenda for the next four years, is a provision that expands earlier support for Second Amendment rights to specifically include self-defense outside the home.

"We support the fundamental right to self-defense wherever a law-abiding citizen has a legal right to be" the plank reads.

Marion Hammer, executive director of United Sportsmen of Florida and past president of the National Rifle Association, said the language more clearly articulates the party's longstanding support of gun owners' right to protect themselves without fear that their self-defensive actions would come back to haunt them.

"It does what it is intended to do," Hammer said of Florida's 2005 version of the law, which has since passed in a couple of other jurisdictions. "It protects law-abiding people who are defending themselves and their families in a lawful manner from the criminal element."

Recently enacted "stand your ground" laws are logical extensions of the "Castle Doctrine," Hammer said, which provides some immunity for residents to defend themselves in their homes against an intruder.

Florida's law was changed in 2005 to remove a duty to first try to avoid killing an attacker and expanding the protections beyond their homes and into public spaces.

"The 'Castle Doctrine' allows law-abiding people to protect themselves without being hassled by the criminal justice system," Hammer said. "That is what the Castle Doctrine, or the "stand your ground" law, is all about."

Though law in Florida for several years now, it wasn't widely discussed until it gained new attention after the February fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford.

George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, faces second-degree murder charges in Martin's death, which has sparked national debate over racial profiling and "stand your ground" protections. Martin, who is black, was unarmed.

Zimmerman's lawyers have said they would likely use "stand your ground" as a defense, though it's not certain. But they say Zimmerman feared for his life after a scuffle with Martin.

A Quinnipiac University poll taken in May showed registered voters in Florida, by a 56 percent to 35 percent margin, support the state's "stand your ground" law. The support is strongest among Republicans, who back the current law 78-15, though independent voters also support the law, by a 58 percent to 35 percent margin.

Democrats more often oppose it, by a 59 percent to 32 percent margin, the poll found.

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