ALERT! – Stand Your Ground Law
DATE: November 8, 2013
TO: USF & NRA Member and Friends
FROM: Marion P. Hammer
USF Executive Director
NRA Past President
By an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 11-2, the Florida House Criminal Justice Committee stood its ground and defeated HB-4003, by Rep. Alan Williams(D).
HB-4003 would have repealed the Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground law.
House Speaker Will Weatherford kept his word. He gave Rep. Williams and his Dream Defenders the hearing they requested.
Committee Chairman Matt Gaetz kept his word. He skillfully and expertly ran a fair, open and orderly 5-hour hearing.
In a structured format, each side was allowed 30 minutes for Legislators who were not on the Committee to speak on the bill.
Speaking in opposition to repeal were Rep. Jason Brodeur (R), Rep. Marti Coley (R), Rep. Katie Edwards (D)
Speaking in support of repeal, Rep. Alan Williams was the only Legislator who spoke in the 30 minute time slot allocated for legislators to speak in favor of repeal.
Speaking for 2 minutes each were 59 speakers from around the state (24 in Support of repeal and 35 Opposed to repeal). Following speakers on both sides of the issue, and spirited closing debate, the vote was as follows:
Voting Against the Bill To Repeal Stand Your Ground:
Voting in Favor of the Bill to Repeal Stand Your Ground
The following article from The Tallahassee Democrat is a fair representation of hearing.
Stand Your Ground repeal voted down in committee | Tallahassee Democrat | tallahassee.com
November 7, 2013 11:42PM
Stand Your Ground repeal voted down in committee
Nov. 7, 2013 11:42 PM
by Karl Etters
Democrat Staff Writer
The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted down a bill by Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, addressing Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law Thursday in a widely anticipated hearing
Williams’ bill, HB 4003, looked to fully repeal the law, but was shot down in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Williams remained adamant in his longtime support of the 2nd Amendment and keeping Florida communities safe.
“That was the first place to start,” Williams said following five hours of debate and public comment. “I believe we owe it to the citizens of the state to make sure that we have if not a perfect law, then a better law.”
Committee chair Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said following the hearing “In a committee with eight Republicans and five Democrats there were only two people who fundamentally believed we should repeal the Castle Doctrine and the Stand Your Ground law.”
Williams said he would continue to work with other legislators, including the law’s author Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, on aggressor language and the duty to retreat to “make sure what we talked about today does not fall on deaf ears.”
The bill would have revoked the right to immunity offered to those who use self-defense and task them with a duty to retreat safely from life-threatening situations, instead of meeting force with force.
The state statute it targeted would have also caused a repeal of the Castle Doctrine, but at Thursday’s hearing, Williams agreed he would amend the bill to keep the right to defend one’s home.
Florida was the first state to adopt the extension of the Castle Doctrine in 2005, which includes a clause stating that a person who feels threatened has no duty to retreat, but instead can lawfully use deadly force anywhere they are lawfully allowed to be.
But with more than 10 bills filed in the Florida Legislature addressing some form of self-defense, lawmakers say even without a full repeal of Stand Your Ground, there is room to make tweaks.
Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said Thursday’s hearing, approved by Weatherford in August, was a legislative throwaway, but should be followed up with serious talk of making some changes.
Though Thurston was not in the Legislature when the law was adopted in 2005, he said “we moved the Castle Doctrine onto the street.”
At a Wednesday press conference, he said instead of focusing on a full repeal, effort should be diverted toward bills like SB 130, which denies aggressors the chance to use self-defense.
Gaetz said “what the Senate has proposed is an exercise in style over substance. I think you’ve got a couple of senators who just want to see something pass even though it doesn’t fundamentally alter the rights of Floridians in a favorable way.”
National Rifle Association and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida President Marion Hammer said this bill “wipes out part of the statutes. It doesn’t tweak it; it doesn’t amend it. It doesn’t adjust it. It is a repeal.”
Prior to 2005, there was no determination of the use of deadly force outside one’s home and the Florida Supreme Court held that its use should be a last resort after all other measures, including retreat, have been exhausted.
The law was contested this summer as protesters occupied the Florida Capitol building for 31 days in the weeks following the acquittal of George Zimmerman by a Seminole County jury in the 2012 killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford.
Although Stand Your Ground was not used in the defense of Zimmerman, 28, Judge Barbara Nelson asked jurors to consider elements of it in their deliberation.
Executive Director of the Dream Defenders Phillip Agnew led the summer protest, which prompted the Thursday hearing.
“The law we are speaking about is based solely on fear, prejudice and hate,” he said. “We’re here for a real repeal of Stand Your Ground.”
In the face of inaction by the committee, Agnew said it would be easy to remember “those that chose an aggressive approach to the cancer in this state and those who chose to keep the money in their pocket.”
Now, 22 states have some form of an expanded self-defense law that extends to public places, while others only cover a person’s vehicle or business.
A 19-member task force consisting of state lawmakers, law-enforcement officers, attorneys, judges and state prosecutors appointed by Gov. Rick Scott made recommendations on the law.
Those recommendations chiefly included increasing training for law-enforcement and judicial officials in self-defense laws “to ensure uniform and fair application,” altering the scope of neighborhood watchmen away from confronting individuals and a review of Florida’s 10-20-Life laws.
Despite recommendations, ultimately the law was kept as is.
Hammer said repealing the Stand Your Ground law fundamentally places the rights on the wrong side of the proverbial gun.
“The justice system places more value on the life of a criminal than on the victim,” Hammer said of the bill language. “The law is supposed to be on the side of the victim.”
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