Stand Your Ground

Two Florida lawmakers are hoping to revive a bill that failed during the past legislative session repealing Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. But, some say the law should remain intact and see it as a waste of time.

It was in late 2013 when Rep. Alan Williams’ (R-Tallahassee) got a five hour hearing for his bill to repeal Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

A House committee approved a bill Tuesday that would allow guns on state university campuses just two months after a shooter wounded three people at a Florida State University library.

Rep. Greg Steube argued his bill (HB 4005) would make campuses safer because a shooter could be stopped by a gun owner before police respond to a shooting scene. He said gun-free zones don't prevent people from going on shooting sprees.

"It didn't stop the shooter at Florida State University's library, it didn't stop the shooter at Virginia Tech," said Steube, R-Sarasota.

Should the Florida Supreme Court or the state Legislature have the power to shift the burden of proof to a defendant or the state prosecutor in a Stand Your Ground case? That question was recently before the high court as well as the Legislature earlier this year. So, could that come back into play again next legislative session?

The Case Before The Court

The Florida Supreme Court will hear a case that could shift the burden of proof in "stand your ground" cases.

The hearing Tuesday involves a 2011 road rage incident in which an Indiana man says he was protecting his family from an aggressive driver by drawing a gun on him as he approached their car.

No shots were fired, but Jared Bretherick is charged with aggravated assault with a firearm. He tried to use the state's "stand your ground" law to avoid a trial. A lower court rejected the defense's argument that Bretherick should be immune from charges.

The Senate rejected proposed changes to the "stand your ground" law that would have prevented people who start an altercation or seek revenge from using it as a defense.

Democratic Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale tried amending another gun bill Thursday to include the changes.

Smith pointed at the Trayvon Martin case, a Tampa-area movie theater shooting and a Jacksonville case where a man fatally shot a teenager after an argument over loud music.

The so-called “Warning Shot” bill is heading to the Governor’s desk, after the Senate passed the measure Thursday. But, debate grew heated as some Democrats tried—and failed—to amend the bill.

Senate Tweaking Stand Your Ground

Mar 18, 2014

Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law got a few unchallenged tweaks from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday.

Developed jointly by Broward County Democrat Chris Smith and  Republican David Simmons of Seminole County, the changes make it clear that no one can start a fight and then claim legal immunity under Stand Your Ground.

It also creates a legal basis for wounded bystanders to file lawsuits, even when the shooting was in self-defense.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and the mothers of two unarmed black youths shot to death in Florida led protesters in Tallahassee Monday, as lawmakers in the House considered revamping gun laws.

Florida’s 2014 Legislative session will start with the typical benign tone that comes during an election year. But it’s unclear if the Republican-led legislature can keep things status quo, the Hearld/Times Tallahassee Bureau reports.

A Florida gun-rights group is threatening a lawsuit against any state school not lifting on-campus gun bans. The University of South Florida is reviewing its gun policy after learning that Florida Carry Inc. plans to sue any state university not lifting bans on weapons  stored in cars, The Tampa Tribune reports.

A Florida Senate committee is working to put an end to unlicensed assisted living facilities, many of which kept elderly and disabled people in deplorable conditions.  Many of the unlicensed ALFs have “billed themselves as shelters, rooming houses or ‘sober homes’” to avoid inspection, according to the Miami Herald.

Two bills have already been filed for next year’s legislative session, including one that would close a loophole in the “Stand Your Ground” law and will be the focus of hearings when legislative committees meet next month.

As the Florida Current reports, state Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, filed a bill to prohibit the law from protecting people who initiate confrontations.

Kathleen McGrory / Miami Herald

The Dream Defenders, who have vowed to stay outside Gov. Rick Scott’s office until he calls the legislature to convene a special session, met with Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters Monday, the Miami Herald reports. The protesters want lawmakers to enact what they’re calling the Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act, to repeal Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law.  

Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano writes that there are serious loopholes in the "stand your ground" law that enable bad guys like drug dealers and motorists consumed with road rage to use it in ways that its creators never intended -- they provoke a confrontation and then use deadly force.

Tampa Bay Times

A jury has acquitted 70-year-old retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ralph Wald on charges of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a man who was having sex with Wald’s 42-year-old wife,  the Tampa Bay Times reports. Attorney Joe Episcopo successfully invoked the “stand your ground” law, saying Wald shot the man because he thought his wife was being raped by an intruder. The wife said she was so drunk she doesn’t remember much.

A Polk County lawmaker who thwarted an attempted burglary by firing a warning shot wants that tactic to be included in the “stand your ground” law, the Orlando Sentinel reports. He also wants people to be able to brandish a weapon to scare off would-be attackers. 

Florida is featured prominently in a "WonkBlog" post by Ezra Klein on gun laws he thinks make no sense. But at least Florida isn't one of the four states that allows concealed-carry without a permit, even for teen-agers.

The man who shot a teenager to death outside of a convenience store in Jacksonville did so after he was threatened with a shotgun, his lawyer says. Police say they found no gun in the teen's car.

Six months of work after Trayvon Martin's death has produced only minor suggestions on the law, none of which would make it tougher to claim self-defense.