By Howard Goodman
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Gov. Rick Scott’s task force, convening to review Florida’s expansive self-defense law, looks all set to fire blanks.
The task force is the governor’s grand response to the outcry over Trayvon Martin‘s shooting death. It is meant to reassess the 2005 Stand Your Ground law, which allows gun-carrying Floridians to fire away if they believe their lives are threatened. Neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman did just that when he confronted the unarmed 17-year-old in a Sanford neighborhood on Feb. 26, an encounter that led to an national firestorm.
The Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection isn’t scheduled to meet until May 1. But the panel has been named, and it is heavily weighted by supporters of Stand Your Ground, starting with the chair, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. She’s a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, which pushed for the law in the Florida Legislature, then helped spread it to another two dozen statehouses.
The 19-member task force also includes state Rep. Dennis Baxley, the Ocala Republican who sponsored the Stand Your Ground law and who has said it doesn’t need to be changed. It’s got state Sen. David Simmons, a Republican from Maitland who co-sponsored the bill and was rooming with Baxley at the time.
Helping select the task force were House Speaker Dean Cannon, a Republican from Winter Park, and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a Republican from Merritt Island. Both co-sponsored Stand Your Ground.
Their picks for the panel included state Rep. Jason Brodeur, a Republican from Sanford who joined the Legislature in 2010. One of the new lawmaker’s earliest actions was to push the “docs and Glocks” bill banning doctors from asking patients about gun ownership.
Missing from the task force are state Rep. Chris Smith, a Democrat from Fort Lauderdale who is an outspoken critic of Stand Your Ground and who has convened his own task force on the subject. Smith said he made clear his desire to sit on Scott’s panel. But Carroll said Smith “did not apply,” the Miami Herald reported.
On Monday, the governor’s office added two more members in an apparent effort to create some balance: Sheriff Jerry Demings, of Orange County, and David L. Perry, chief of the Florida State University Police Department. Both men are black. And as the Herald reports, both have clashed with the NRA. Demings fought an “open carry” law, and Perry opposed a bill that would have allowed guns onto college campuses.
But those additions do little to change the substance of the committee. Chan Lowe, the Sun Sentinel‘s editorial cartoonist, put it best by calling the task force “a shining example of cynical political window dressing.”
“Looking into” the issue is about all the panel is empowered to do, because any changes in the law are up to the same Republican-dominated Legislature that passed this aberration in the first place….
Scott has resorted to the standard default position—make an empty gesture that gives people the impression you are doing something, then quietly allow it to fade away.
Here’s Lowe’s cartoon on the topic. Bulls-eye!