Senate Committee Approves Changes to 'Stand Your Ground' Law
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A bill to make minor tweaks to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law made its way through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, passing the committee with a unanimous vote.
SB 130, sponsored by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would make several changes to the law, which caused a commotion last summer after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin.
Simmons’ proposal would require law enforcement agencies to conduct a full investigation on whether there was lawful justification used by an aggressor to justify the use of force.
Although the law was not used in the case, Florida’s Stand Your Ground gathered national attention after Zimmerman was found not guilty in the death of Martin, sparking protests and calls to change the law.
Just last week, Rev. Al Sharpton led a group of protesters to the Florida Capitol to speak against the law, declaring Florida “ground zero” to fix or repair it. The Dream Defenders, the group of mostly college students who protested the law for 30 days in Tallahassee, also showed up to speak out against the law during the beginning of this year’s legislative session.
Monday’s vote represented the first step toward compromise on the law since last summer when groups called for its total repeal.
Former president of the NRA and lobbyist for the group, Marion Hammer, and Stacy Scott who represented the Florida Public Defender Association, were also present at the meeting to show their support of the bill.
"There's nothing in the Stand Your Ground law that suggests the Supreme Court could interpret it to mean you lose your innocence until proven guilty when somebody attacks you," said Hammer on the law. "This law is about protecting innocent people who come under attack through no fault of their own and then are treated like criminals by the judicial system."
"Stand Your Ground is not to be used for vigilantism, for revenge or as an excuse to confront people," said Scott.
The bill will now head to the Senate Community Affairs Committee. Afterward, it will go to the Rules Committee for scheduling of Senate floor debate.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenes.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.