By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, held a press conference in Tallahassee Wednesday to ask lawmakers to repeal the state’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, which she believes shielded the man who killed her young son last year.
The Florida Legislature recently held committee meetings and began filing legislation for this year’s session, which begins in March.
“Stand Your Ground” laws — which permit people to use lethal force to defend themselves in public — have passed in nearly two dozen states and were enacted in Florida in 2005. Typically, people are only allowed to use lethal force in their homes for self-defense. However, “Stand Your Ground” allows people to fire guns in parks and in the streets if they feel threatened.
Since the shooting of 17-year-old Martin last year, there have been calls among Democrats in the Florida Legislature to repeal the law.
However, gun rights advocates have stood by “Stand Your Ground” — and so have a majority of the Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, even as Fulton gave an emotional plea to repeal the law in Tallahassee this week, it was unlikely that such a repeal would pass:
The pitch to repeal the Stand Your Ground law is a longshot proposal from Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami and Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee. Both said that incidents like the death of Trayvon, an unarmed teenager shot to death in Sanford last year, is evidence that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law should be repealed.
“These tragedies renew the argument that Stand Your Ground laws make ordinary citizens feel empowered to shoot first and ask questions later,” said Williams. “We owe to not only Trayvon’s mother, who’s here with us today, but we owe it to future generations, we owe it to the citizens of the state of Florida, to ensure that these laws will not bring harm to their families or to our streets.”
The press conference also came at an interesting time.
President Barack Obama held his own press conference Wednesday announcing a slew of executive orders that would strengthen background checks before gun sales and give mental health workers the power to report patients who are public threats.
Democrats applauded the announcement, but gun rights advocates and many Republicans — including many of those in Tallahassee — were not so excited.
Republicans, who have a majority in the state House and Senate, say Congress should have had a say-so on the measures.
“There’s no reason why the President should be treating this issue any different than any other piece of legislation he wants to champion,” said Representative Jimmy Patronis.
“That’s circumventing another branch of government and that’s the legislature and you know he may not be happy with certain aspects of Congress, but he ought to deal with them,” said State Senator John Thrasher.
Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, however, said he supported the move, but admitted that the National Rifle Association had a strong grip on the Florida Legislature, which means any state-level gun measure would be a tough sell in Tallahassee.
A recent study found that states with a “Stand Your Ground” law have higher homicide rates.