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‘Stand Your Ground’ laws challenged with launch of nationwide campaign against them

This news story was published on April 12, 2012.
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By William E. Gibson, The Orlando Sentinel –

WASHINGTON — The crusade to repeal or replace Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has gone national.

State Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., joined with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Wednesday to launch a nationwide campaign to undo such self-defense measures — which critics call “shoot-first” laws — in Florida and 22 other states.

Bloomberg and Smith said “Stand Your Ground” laws encourage vigilantism while undermining the justice system. Backed by leaders of the National Urban League and NAACP, they are generating public pressure to try to force changes to existing laws while defeating proposals in some states to pass new ones.

Both men said people have a right to defend themselves in their homes and vehicles but should be held to a different standard in public places.

“I’m trying to protect people across this country,” Bloomberg said. “Plain and simple, this (law) is just trying to give people a license to murder.”

Smith, the incoming Democratic leader in the state Senate, made his case at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. His appearance, flanked by Bloomberg and civil rights leaders, raised the profile of a task force he created to review the law cited in the case of Neighborhood Watch captain George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26.

The two spoke a few hours before Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey announced the charge against Zimmerman of second-degree murder — but they said that wouldn’t affect their campaign.

“I welcome charges being filed because I believe it will soothe tensions in Florida and let others know that this is not what we consider (acceptable) actions in a civilized society,” Smith said. “But this is much bigger than that case. It was used way before Trayvon Martin, and sadly it will be used way after Trayvon Martin unless we start making changes in this law.”

Prodded by the National Rifle Association, Florida set a national trend by passing “Stand Your Ground” in 2005. The law allows people to respond with deadly force if they feel their life is in danger, with no duty to retreat from a confrontation.

Bloomberg said such laws “justify civilian gunplay and invite vigilante justice and retribution with disastrous results.”

“These laws have undermined the integrity of the justice system and done real harm to public safety. They have sown confusion in police departments about when to make arrests. They have made it more difficult for prosecutors to bring charges in cases of deadly violence.”

The mayor also took a shot at Florida’s gun laws, declaring that New York City would never have allowed Zimmerman to carry a gun.

Jon Soltz, an Army major who served in Iraq and trained Iraqi policemen, joined the press conference to say that troops facing combat pressures must still show restraint when confronted by unarmed civilians.

“This is a legal protection in these states that is afforded to Mr. Zimmerman that is not afforded to troops in combat,” Soltz said. “Unless I’m wrong, I don’t think Florida is a war zone. These laws are a license to kill.”

Smith’s task force — prosecutors, defense attorneys and politicians — began work last week reviewing Florida’s law. “Unanimously, everyone agreed something had to be changed,” Smith said.

He welcomed the chance to take his cause beyond Florida.

“It’s great that the mayor has called upon these other states, as he has before, to look at these laws and bring back civility to our streets,” Smith said.

The campaign includes a website — — that invites public comment on the law.

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7 Responses to ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws challenged with launch of nationwide campaign against them

  1. Patriot Reply Report comment

    April 12, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Figured the anit gunners were going to have a field day with this. No law is perfect, no one is perfect. That dosen’t mean we take the rights of everyone for the mistakes of a very few.

    So why has nothing been done about the black panthers putting a bounty on Zimmermans head? Yet they call for massive changes and more restrictions on guns.

  2. Larry Reply Report comment

    April 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    The people against stand your ground are the reason we have to have a law like that. Why should we have to run away when some jerk decides to rob us or do other things. They have to think twice when someone has the ability to protect themselves. The law should stand.

  3. Jim Reply Report comment

    April 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Guns can not killunlessaimedat someone and the trigger is pulled. I belive in the right to bare arms.

    • common sense Reply Report comment

      April 12, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      Thats why drugs should be legal. They don’t kill anybody.

  4. Watcher Reply Report comment

    April 12, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I will vote for the “stand your ground” laws to remain in place. I do agree, they do need some updating and clarification though. But mark my words, if someone come into my household or approaches my family with the intent to violate or do harm to either. I will do whatever it takes to stop them, be it legal or not to do so.

    • common sense Reply Report comment

      April 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      If the kid had a permit to carry he could have killed zimmerman legaly. Zimmerman was the aggressor and martin was scared for his life.

      • Anonymous Reply Report comment

        April 12, 2012 at 11:34 pm

        He couldn’t have a permit with his drug charge with in a one year period.