The task force empaneled by Florida Governor Rick Scott called to look into the state's "Stand Your Ground" law, which has come under fire in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting, had its first meeting yesterday.
The "Stand Your Ground" law, also known as Florida Statute Chapter 776, deals with justifiable use of force, holding that a person has conditional claims of self defense in situations in which they may have "held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself."
Florida's statute and similar measures in other states have become especially controversial in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who was shot and killed in an altercation with a neighborhood watch member. Under the statute, the shooter, George Zimmerman, may have standing for a self-defense claim.
Florida state lawmakers say that "Stand Your Ground" needs clarifying. "You have prostitutes shooting their johns and availing themselves to this law," said State Sen. Chris Smith. "You have gang members having shootouts and availing themselves of this law. You have people chasing someone a block down the street stabbing someone to death and availing themselves of this law. I think those points need to be clarified."
But the 19-member panel, led by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the first African American elected statewide in Florida, has been criticized for its makeup.
“Though on face [sic] you have selected a mixed group, in reality the lawmakers chosen for this task force all represent a singular viewpoint, having all voted [for] and/or co-sponsored the bill that would become the 'Stand Your Ground' statute," State Rep. Dwight Bullard of Miami wrote to Scott.
But Carroll pushed back, vowing that the panel's investigation would be fair. "Out of the 19 total members on this task force, I am unaware of the other 15 members' position on ['Stand Your Ground'] or if they favor or disfavor gun laws. So it is a mischaracterization for anyone to presume that this task force is not balanced," Carroll said.