Stand Your Ground Hearings Highlight A Frenzy Of Activity

A new frenzy of activity involving stand your ground laws may soon have some gun-toting, second amendment quoting vigilante kooks shaking.

For the first time since neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Florida’s Senate recently held a hearing on changes to the state’s controversial stand-your-ground law, and new guidelines for deadly force and self-defense by neighborhood watch groups were approved by the state senate’s Judiciary Committee.

US Senate stand your ground hearing on October 29, 2013
US Senate stand your ground hearing on October 29, 2013

Then, last week, for the first time in history, the federal government held a U.S. Senate hearing on stand your ground laws in America.

A few days later, a new trial date was set for Marissa Alexander, the Florida victim of domestic violence who fired a warning shot into a wall, and was sentenced to 20 years in jail. Why didn’t stand your ground work for her?

Marissa Alexander

The day after Alexander’s status hearing, Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Push Coalition filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia in connection with two Georgia stand your ground cases.

This week, the next major hurdle takes place as a legislator in Florida leads a charge into the Florida House of Representatives to repeal stand your ground laws.

State Representative Alan Williams has introduced SB 4003, a bill calling for a full repeal of stand your ground laws in Florida. I received a call from his office a few days ago, urging a roundup of supporters for the bill at a state senate hearing before the House of Representatives in Tallahassee on Thursday, November 7th. Many opponents of stand your ground law, including the young activist group Dream Defenders, are expected to attend the hearing.

Representative Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee)
Representative Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee)

The resistance – to keep the law – is large, loud, and powerful. Williams wants his state, where it all started, to be the first to end stand your ground law. So far, most efforts to merely change the law in Florida have been blocked. But the movement to change the law is growing.

Both proponents and opponents can agree that stand your ground laws – as currently written – do not work. In fact, according to statistical research released by several groups, these laws do just the opposite of what they were intended to do,

Stand your ground laws expand the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and long-established Castle Doctrine. These new laws are reportedly designed to give legal, law-abiding citizens the right to defend themselves in the face of imminent death or injury – anywhere they have a right to be – without thinking first about how to defuse or get out of the situation (no duty to retreat).Florida Stand Your Ground Statute

That anywhere could literally be anywhere – a public place like a park, a school, an event, a niteclub, or at work. Or, in a private place, such as a back alley, in someone else’s home (as long as your’re invited), or at a private party. With a concealed-carry permit, you’re protected by the law – and whatever caliber steel you prefer, provided you can prove the imminent threat of death or injury by the other party.

Of course, a killer could still be charged with other crimes as a result, yet actually get away with murder, no time in jail, or less than the maximum sentence – because they claimed stand your ground immunity.

The Florida hearing on the bill to repeal is tomorrow. The NRA lobby is sure to be there. So the movement to end stand your ground laws must be larger, louder, and more powerful in order to jump this next hurdle.

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