It is ironic that the report from a gubernatorial task force looking into Florida’s “stand your ground” law was issued just days before the first anniversary of the death of an unarmed teenager whose admitted killer is claiming self-defense by citing that particular obnoxious legislation.
And it is no surprise that the task force has simply rubber-stamped the intractable Republican-controlled Legislature’s view that there is nothing wrong with the measure.
Really? A young black man from Miami Gardens is dead, the man who killed him is seeking refuge in this law and still nothing is wrong with it?
The 44-page report from the loftily named Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, established by Gov. Rick Scott on March 22, 2012, has the appearance of studious work purporting to diligently examine the law and its application.
Following public hearings, and a review of “all matters related to the rights of Floridians to feel safe and secure in the state,” the panel said it “concurs with the core belief that all persons, regardless of citizenship status, have a right to feel safe and secure in our state.
To that end, all persons who are conducting themselves in a lawful manner have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be.”
But Trayvon Martin had a “lawful right” to be where he was when he was killed and that should cause concern beyond the outrage it sparked.
The one “recommendation” clearly seeks to throw a bone to those who rightly claim that the panel’s work was a predictable monumental waste of time; that the Legislature should move “to define the role of neighborhood watch participants as limited to observing, watching, and reporting potential criminal activity to law enforcement, (not) to pursue, confront, or provoke potential suspects.”
We need the Legislature to take action on what is Crime Watch 101?
Significant recommendations for refining the law came from at least some task force members, notably its vice-chairman, the Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes Jr., pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee; Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle; and Public Defender Stacy A. Scott of Gainesville. Important suggestions also came from the public, especially South Floridians, but they, too, were ignored.
Those who are steeped in the culture of the gun and violence do not have the capacity to take a dispassionate look at this law and admit the obvious – that it is bad legislation.
Ideally, it should be rescinded. Since that is obviously not possible, it should at least be amended. That neither is expected to happen now that this task force has completed its work is just another example of how some people refuse to face facts when the facts do not fit into their preconceived notions.
Our state is worse off because of this “stand your ground” law.
*Pictured above is Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes Jr.