Picking a fight with the gun lobby and legislative Republicans, State Sen. Chris Smith (D-Ft. Lauderdale) has introduced a bill that would substantially reduce the protections Florida's stand-your-ground law offers to armed citizens.
The law -- controversial because of its application in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin this year by a neighborhood watch volunteer -- allows the use of deadly force by someone who feels threatened. It also prevents police from arresting stand-your-ground shooters in many cases.
Under Smith's bill, the law would change in at least two major ways:
- There would be no stand-your-ground defense for someone who provokes or pursues an assailant.
- Police would have more discretion to decide whether the shooter can be arrested.
Smith's legislation, SB 136, would also establish a database of stand-your-ground cases that the state could use to study the law and its application.
Smith, the Senate minority leader, said his bill is not an assault on gun fights but an attempt to reduce the "culture of violence in our society by putting the responsibility for the consequences back into the hands of gun users."
The Trayvon Martin shooting, which resulted in second-degree murder charges still pending against accused shooter George Zimmerman, set off much debate about the stand-your-ground law pioneered in Florida and adopted by other states.
A task force set up by Gov. Rick Scott took testimony from 140 citizens during hearings around the state. It proposed an awareness campaign and additional training for police officers to deal with the law but it recommended no significant changes to the statute itself.