At a hearing on last Thursday, Florida lawmakers gave some young people a slap in the face, voting 11-2 against a bill calling for a full repeal of the state’s stand your ground law.
The Florida House of Representatives also gave some attendees the impression they had come into the hearing with their minds already made up that they would shoot down SB 4003, a bill introduced by State Representative Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee).
The lawmakers questioned Williams at length during the five-hour hearing, with much grilling coming from Chairman Matt Gaetz, who sometimes appeared to try to ridicule Williams’ attempts to sell the bill. Gaetz has been infamously quoted as saying he will not change “one damn comma” of Florida’s stand your ground law.
Williams insisted that his bill would simply cause the state’s current self-defense law to revert to its original form, what he called “common law” that existed before the 2005 legislation which enacted stand your ground law.
Gaetz used the opportunity draw an analogy between stand your ground with Williams’ common law, referring to the two as “buckets of laws”, one with more self-defense rights (stand your ground), and the other with less rights. He questioned which would be more preferable to someone who had the urgency to defend themselves.
The Webster Room in Florida’s Capitol was almost filled to capacity with about an equal amount of polarized HB 4003 proponents like the Dream Defenders, and opponents like NRA members occupying opposite sides of the room.
“Remember November” were the words used by Dream Defenders leader Philip Agnew as he spoke at the hearing. He was referring to next year’s state elections, when legislators seeking re-election face this new young breed of voters. Teenagers as young as 14 years-old spoke in favor of a repeal.
The lawmakers also heard from Lucia Mcbath, mother of stand your ground victim Jordan Davis, as she made another impassioned plea calling for changes in the law. She had appeared days earlier at a U.S. Senate hearing on stand your ground.
Ron Davis, the teenager’s father, also called for changes, and the House heard from attorney Daryl Parks, representing Sybrina Fulton & Tracy Martin, parents of Trayvon Martin, who were not at the hearing.
Gun advocate Marion Hammer, a past president of the NRA, made a short statement, purporting that “stand your ground is a good law”, and many other gun advocates spoke out against the repeal bill, or waived their chance to speak in opposition.
Before the lawmakers even voted on Williams’ bill, several in the proponent camp appeared to believe that the House would vote against the repeal. Agnew, the Dream Defenders leader, said, “It’s not over. We’ll just regroup and come back stronger next time.”
- Florida legislators vote down attempt to repeal Stand Your Ground law (jacksonville.com)
- Florida lawmakers defeat ‘ stand your ground’ repeal (TBO.com)
- Stand your ground law survives Florida House vote (foxnews.com)
- Stand your ground repeal rejected in Florida (thegrio.com)