Lawmakers advanced changes to Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law Tuesday in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial and a summer of protests after his acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Via Orlando Sentinel :
But gun-rights groups and several Republican members of a Senate panel that passed the changes expressed doubts about the bill’s provision that would allow lawsuits against people acting in self-defense if they negligently injure or kill an innocent bystander.
That was one of several recommendations that came out of a task force appointed by Gov. Rick Scott last year following the Martin shooting. But Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said he didn’t think the change was necessary and voted against the bill, along with Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.
“What we’re saying is we’re putting them in jeopardy even if they’re trying to defend themselves,” Thrasher said.
The lawmaker largely responsible for drafting the 2005 law – which allows citizens to use deadly force without trying to retreat if they feel their lives are in danger — opened the two-hour hearing with a defense of it.
“Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has been the subject of intense public debate and scrutiny,” Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, told the Senate Judiciary Committee, which passed the bill, 7-2.
“I think everyone has found it is an excellent, common sense law. But it is not perfect.”
Simmons, who served on the Scott task force, said innocent bystanders deserved protection in cases where someone might spray bullets in the air or otherwise act with “negligence.”
Simmons’ bill, (SB 130) is being combined with similar legislation (SB 122) sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, although the two still have differences over how much protection to provide for people who use deadly force. Those differences, they said, would be worked out later.
“This has truly been an effort in which we have taken this issue, dealt with it in a bipartisan constructive manner and I believe reached a consensus thus far,” Simmons said.