After Stand Your Ground passed in Florida, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said the pro-gun organization would use the victory to promote the law nationwide. (Photo by Gage Skidmore.)

By Howard Goodman
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

It’s no coincidence that after Florida passed its Stand Your Ground law in 2005, many other states followed suit.

The law — which greatly expanded the right to use deadly force — had been vigorously pushed by the National Rifle Association before being passed overwhelming by a deferential legislature and signed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, who called it a “commonsense” approach to making the citizenry safer.

It has not exactly worked out that way.

George Zimmerman, who shot and killed the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin on February 26, has not been arrested or charged — sparking a national outrage — largely because Sanford police believed his claim of self-defense. Under the Stand Your Ground doctrine, a shooter is justified in firing if he “reasonably believes” his life is in danger. The law scrapped the time-honored legal duty to retreat in public places.

As soon as the bill was signed into law in Florida, the NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, said the pro-gun organization would use the victory to promote the law everywhere.

Within weeks, a proposed statute with almost the exact wording of the Florida law was adopted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That’s a conservative organization that pushes for laws favorable to its patrons, mainly scores of U.S. corporations. One of those backers is the NRA.

ALEC’s method is to hand cookie-cutter “model” bills to sympathetic state lawmakers — mostly conservative Republicans — who then sponsor them in their statehouses.  They’ve been very effective. According to Mother Jones magazine, 23 states have followed Florida’s lead in passing these laws.

The NRA has long been a high-caliber force in Florida’s legislature. Between 2003 and 2010, the gun lobby gave $2.7 million to state lawmakers, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. They contributed the legal limit, $500, to Jeb Bush’s 2002 gubernatorial re-election campaign, an additional $60,000 to the state’s majority Republican Party — though none to Democrats.

In the vote for bill, all 22 legislators who received NRA money said “yea,” writes Think Progress. But so did many others. The bill was passed by the House, 94-20. It swept the Senate, 39-0. When Bush signed it, the NRA’s longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, Marion Hammer, was at his side.

The NRA is still pushing the law. On March 1, just a few days after Martin was killed, the NRA in a blog post urged Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, to sign a bill similar to Florida’s law. Dayton vetoed the bill. In his veto letter, he cited objections from law-enforcement agencies: “They believe it will increase the dangers to them in the performance of their duties.”

The NRA is also busily lobbying for measures in Iowa and Alaska.

Bush has been silent on Trayvon Martin’s killing and the eruption of outrage and protest that have followed. But when he signed the bill, he said that when people faced life-threatening situations, “to have to retreat and put yourself in a very precarious position defies commonsense.”

But John F. Timoney, who was then Miami’s police chief, immediately called the bill unnecessary and dangerous. As reporter Abby Goodnough wrote in the New York Times:

Chief Timoney, who has successfully pushed his police officers to use less deadly force, said many people, including children, could become innocent victims. The bill could make gun owners, including drivers with road rage or drunken sports fans who get into fights leaving ball games, assume they have “total immunity,” he said.

“Whether it’s trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house,” Chief Timoney said, “you’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.”

The chief had it right.



3 Responses


    The “Stand Your Ground” law does not even apply in this case. It is not a defense for chasing down someone who doesn’t pose a threat. This case is not a reason to invalidate a very reasonable law.

  2. Rydak

    This article is ultra-left wing media at its best/worst.

    This law does not even apply from either prospective:

    1.) If Martin supporters are to be believed… Zimmerman is not covered as he chased Martin down. No stand you ground there.
    2.) If Zimmerman is to be believed, the law still would not apply, as Zimmerman is saying he was pinned down on the ground with Martin on top of him…no chance of retreating even if the law required it.

    The Stand your ground law is a VICTIM’S RIGHT LAW, has little if anything to do with guns. And yea, the stats are right. Justifiable shootings are up…as in Victims refusing to be victims anymore.

    The Liberal media/Gun banners are of the mindset that a woman, lay naked and dead in an ally is somehow morally superior to woman who is explaining to police how her murderous attacker got the gunshot wound in his chest.

  3. Martin Altizer

    Stand your ground? Excuse me, taking the alternative course will get you stabbed or shot in the back, bludgeoned, what have you. Presenting your back to an agressor means that you are making yourself even more vulnerable to attack.
    I think that a more realistic approach would be something the NRA excells at, and I don’t mean a gunslinger mentality (which is NOT the NRA’s venue, anyway!)
    Training and education. Realizing that you don’t have to empty the magazine to save yourself in a potentially lethal situatiion. Understanding that you should NOT be able to use “I felt threatened” as a sole defense- you better be damn well able to prove it to a jury and judge that a clear and present danger forced you to to enter your firearm into the mix, and that you don’t have to pull the trigger, but that you are showing that you do have the capability to PROTECT yourself. There are literally thousands of documented instances whee a citizenlegaly armed, has saved self , friends, or family, from serious harm, and a lot of those instances do not involve actual discharge of a weapon. I refer to the monthly page in the “American Rifleman” and the “American Hunter” titled ‘The Armed Citizen’.
    I have carried pistol on my person for over 38 years now. In those 38 years, I have had the need to be prepared to use that deadly force maybe 5 times, and the actual firing of my weapon on 2 occasions- both times into the ground, not into a person. I have also been in the position while in federal service to actually take another’s life, something that has had a profound effect on how I have dealt with my civilian firearms usage.
    I believe that George Zimmerman is either a liar, or stupid- probably both. A round in the ground would have ended that confrontation with harm to neither. Now, Trayvon Martin is dead George Zimmerman is probably headed for prison, and the Sanford PD has shown itself to be a bunch of idiots. Is the ‘Stand your ground’ law totally at fault. I think not, but It needs to better defined, and should not be a sole defense for an itchy, untrained trigger finger.
    May the Lord bless and welcome Trayvon to a place without race. May George get his just deserts. May this event never happen again.


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