MIAMI – Florida’s controversial stand your ground law will, once again, take center stage at the upcoming Legislative Session when State Sen. Shervin Jones will try another attempt at repealing the statute.
The West Park Democrat filed SB 96 which is designed to remove statutory language allowing someone “to stand his or her ground” and replaces it with a duty to retreat from confrontation “if the person knows that he or she can, with complete safety, avoid the necessity of using deadly force.”
Under the current law, a person can use deadly force if an individual feels his or her life is threatened without a duty to retreat.
Jones said the law has been linked to an increase in gun violence.
"It would certainly reduce the number of individuals dying from gun violence," Jones said of his proposal.
Now, the burden of proof has been shifted to prosecutors to show why a person shouldn’t be allowed to use deadly force when a person’s life is threatened.
Prosecutors statewide protested the change because it makes it difficult to prosecute people who invoke the stand your ground law during trial.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, since the controversial law was enacted in 2005, Florida’s overall monthly homicide rate has increased 24.4 percent and the homicide by firearm rate is up 31.6 percent.
Zimmerman, who’s Hispanic, said he fired the shot in self-defense after a fight with Martin, who was from Miami Gardens visiting relatives in Sanford.
A jury acquitted Zimmerman of manslaughter charges.
Authorities initially didn’t arrest Zimmerman citing self-defense laws but then-Gov. Rick Scott appointed a special prosecutor to examine the case and Zimmerman was arrested and tried.
Zimmerman’s attorneys didn’t invoke the stand your ground law but it became the focus of his trial.
Zimmerman told police that he spotted Martin burglarizing a home and called the authorities.
He said Martin confronted him and a fight ensued.
Zimmerman said Martin repeatedly bashed his head against the concrete and the teen tried to go for his gun tucked in his waistband.
In another stand your ground case in Florida, Michael Dreka, who is white, shot and killed 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton, an unarmed Black man, outside a Clearwater convenience store in 2016.
Drejka confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend inside a car for parking in a disabled parking space without a placard.
McGlockton came out of the store and shoved Drejka to the ground before he fired the fatal shot.
Authorities in Pinellas County elected not to bring charges against Drejka but then-State Attorney Bernie McCabe eventually prosecuted Drejka who was convicted of manslaughter and serving a 20-year prison sentence.
This year in Charlotte County, James Gainvors will not be allowed to use the stand your ground law as part of his defense after he killed his neighbor Matthew Hanson in a dispute over fireworks.
Gainvors was indicted on charges of second-degree murder and could face life in prison if convicted.
Critics, including Jones, said the stand your ground law and Florida lawmakers loosening gun law restrictions this year in which background checks and concealed weapon permits are no longer required to purchase firearms could make Florida a hotbed of gun violence.
In settling disputes, gun owners can invoke the stand your ground law to avoid prosecution.
Florida’s gun-related deaths, including homicides, suicides and accidental shootings, from 1999 through 2019 has increased 20 percent, according to Gun Violence Prevention at the Center for American Progress Action.
The gun murder rate in Florida was 8 percent higher than the national rate at the time, citing the impact of the stand your ground law between 2008 and 2019.
"As the first state in the nation to enact an expansive stand your ground self-defense law, Florida set a trend in state legislatures that has resulted in nearly half of all states enacting a similar law," said Chelsea Parsons, vice president of the Gun Violence Prevention Center. "But with more than a decade of data now available to assess the impact of this law in the state, Floridians have ample information to determine whether this law has proven beneficial to the safety of all communities statewide, or whether it is a failed experiment in need of immediate repeal."