Stand your ground supporters not backing off

Despite concerns about civil liability, criminal procedure, and some vagueness in the original law, a special task force examining Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law says no significant changes are necessary. That’s fine with the incoming House speaker, who says he’s satisfied with the law the way it is and the right to self-defense should not be watered down. Governor Rick Scott organized the task force in the wake of the Treyvon Martin shooting by an armed neighborhood watch volunteer. Critics say the statute gives blanket immunity from criminal charges or civil liability to anyone who kills someone and claims self-defense.

In its draft recommendations, the task force stands firm on Stand Your Ground: “The task force concurs with the core belief that all persons, regardless of citizenship status, have a right to feel safe and secure in our state. To that end, all persons have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be and are conducting themselves in a lawful manner.” However, there are questions that need answers. Members urged lawmakers to decide if police are forbidden to detain or arrest someone while they investigate a self-defense killing. The original author of the law wants to extend complete legal protection. “Every law-abiding citizen shouldn’t have to lawyer up,” he said.

Citizens were invited to share their opinions on the law. Some like it as it is and don’t want the international attention drawn to the Martin case to undermine its provisions. Opponents, like the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, say the law gives civilians who kill in self-defense more protection that police officers get when they are forced to shoot in the line of duty.

The task force has until March to complete its work. Once the final report is in, it will be up to the state legislature to fine tune the law or leave it as is. Major changes or repeal are all but out of the question. One recommendation that may get some attention is reviewing standards for neighborhood watch groups, and their roles and responsibilities. The panel suggests they be restricted to watching, observing and reporting suspected criminal activity to police, and nothing more.

Source: The Associated Press, “Big change in gun law not expected from task force,” Melissa nelson-Gabriel, Nov. 13, 2012