Florida legislature poised to bolster ‘Stand Your Ground’ law

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Photo credit: Pixabay, stevepb, CC0 Public Domain, https://pixabay.com/en/firearm-revolver-bullet-gun-weapon-409252/

By Letitia Stein and Bernie Woodall

(Reuters) – Florida lawmakers advanced a measure on Wednesday that could make it easier to avoid prosecution in deadly shootings and other use-of-force cases by seeking immunity on self-defense grounds under the state’s pioneering “stand your ground” law.

In a 74-39 vote, the state’s House of Representatives passed legislation that shifts the burden of proof from defendants to prosecutors when the law is invoked to avoid trial.

The measure now returns to the state Senate, which last month approved its own version of the bill. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans.

Florida’s “stand your ground” law, passed in 2005, received wide scrutiny and inspired similar laws in other states. It removed the legal responsibility to retreat from a dangerous situation and allowed use deadly force when a person felt greatly threatened.

Opponents say the measures will embolden gun owners to shoot first, citing the 2012 death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, which spurred national protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. The neighborhood watchman who killed him, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of murder after the law was included in jury instructions.

Wednesday’s House vote on changing the law followed party lines.

Supporters, including the National Rifle Association, the powerful U.S. gun lobby, see the legislation as bolstering a civilian’s right to quell an apparent threat.

“This bill is trying to put the burden of proof where it belongs, on the state, because all people are innocent before being proven guilty,” said the Republican sponsor of the bill, Representative Bobby Payne.

Florida’s law did not specify the process for applying “stand your ground” immunity. State courts established the current protocol, which calls for a pre-trial hearing before a judge and puts the burden of proof on the defendant.

Most of those speaking in the House debate were Democrats who said the bill would lead to more violence.

“Who will speak for the voiceless victims, silenced by an aggressor who claims he wasn’t an aggressor but is protected by a flawed law?” said Democrat Representative Bobby Dubose.

While public defenders support the changes to the law, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association and gun control advocates oppose them.

“Every battery case, every domestic violence case, every use of force case, as a matter of routine, defense attorneys will now request hearings,” said Phil Archer, a state attorney.

Archer, a lifetime NRA member who teachers gun owners about “stand your ground,” said of the changes: “This is just going too far.”

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida, and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Trott)

  • Bachelor With Sense

    This article, written by so called journalists is rife with factual errors, particularly in regards to Trayvon Martin who was found Guilty of trying to kill George Zimmerman by beating George’s head into the concrete curb while sitting on George’s chest! George shot Trayvon in Self-Defense!

    NEITHER the “stand your ground” Law NOR the “Castle Doctrine” had ANY Application to the case!

    You so called journalists need to tell the TRUTH and be Honest in your articles! I, and MOST Citizens, are tired of your LIES and Liberal Slant within your “reporting”!

  • And the usual winging from the Democraps that more of their voters might get shot for engaging in low-rent criminal enterprises–as opposed to the high-dollar criminal enterprises of corruption, bribery, and nepotism in which Democrat politicians engage.

  • Mitch Darby

    Why is this a partisan issue??? Someone tries to break into your house with a weapon. Why can’t you protect yourself and family? In NY, we practically need to be running out of the house with bullets flying over our head before we can shoot back! Why is Common Sense political?

  • Old Florida Boy

    Archer is looking to further his political career, most of the state attorneys have become to lazy to work, it has become a case of the state attorneys (association) and the Democrats against the citizens of Florida! We need to remember these turn coats and vote them out of office as soon as we, god help us if these socialist become judges!

  • Chris Robinette

    I would agree with you except the meaning of “Stand your ground” means just that, no retreat then faced by with a lethal threat I’m sure you would agree. In Zimmerman’s case he had contacted 911 and was informed “not to follow (persue)” Martin which Zimmerman ignored. That action changed Zimmerman’s position from from defender to aggressor.

  • GenEarly

    DemocRats are Socialists “progressing” to Marxists and abhor private property, or individual rights. Blacks suffer the most from DemocRat gun control, yet continue to vote D’ Rat, go figure. Only Black Criminals are armed in the D’Rat Plantation cities.

  • “The goal of socialism is communism” – Vladimir Lenin

    “We are 5 days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America” – Barack Obama

    “…They have infiltrated every conceivable sphere of activity: youth groups, radio, television, and motion picture industries, church, school, educational and cultural groups, the press, national minority groups, and civil and political units…” John Stormer – “None Dare Call it Treason” 1964

    See: “AGENDA – Grinding America Down” – vimeo

    Read: “None Dare Call it Conspiracy” – Gary Allen, 1971 – read online