A House subcommittee will look into the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law, but its chairman said he doesn’t intend to support any changes.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has directed Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chairman Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, to hold a hearing on the law during a committee week this fall.
“Our evaluation of its effectiveness should be guided by objective information, not by political expediency,” Weatherford wrote in an opinion piece published Friday in The Tampa Tribune. “Does the law keep the innocent safer? Is it being applied fairly? Are there ways we can make this law clearer and more understandable?”
Gaetz said the hearing will provide a platform for anyone to comment on the law, and members of the subcommittee can offer proposals about the self-defense measure.
Just don’t expect him to back any proposed change.
“I don’t intend to move one damn comma on the ‘stand your ground’ law,” Gaetz said. “I’m fully supportive of the law as it’s written. I think any aberrational circumstances that have resulted are due to errors at the trial court level.”
House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who on Thursday formally requested a special session on the state’s self-defense laws, would still like a broader review of Florida’s criminal-justice laws and policies.
“He’s concerned about the size and make-up of juries, especially in felony jury cases, and he would like a legislative review of criminal-justice polices beyond ‘stand your ground,’ ” said Mark Holls, a spokesman for House Democrats.
The prospect of a hearing also hasn’t placated the Dream Defenders, a group that has staged a sit-in outside Gov. Rick Scott’s Capitol office to demand a special legislative session to consider changes to the state’s self-defense laws, initiatives to stop racial profiling and an end to zero-tolerance discipline policies in schools.
“You’re still ignoring the root of the issue, at least in terms of the Zimmerman verdict, and that is the criminalization of our youth, the way that young people are looked at in Florida, black, white and brown, and that’s due to the school-to-prison pipeline and racial profiling that’s perpetuated throughout law enforcement,” Dream Defenders Political Director Ciara Taylor said.
The protesters were spurred to action by the July 13 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting of teen Trayvon Martin. The law was not used as part of Zimmerman’s defense, but has become associated with the incident.
Weatherford wrote that he requested the hearing because of the “diverse” comments state representatives are receiving about the law.
The protesters are in their third week in the Capitol and have undertaken their own “people’s session” in the lobby of Gov. Rick Scott’s office, intending to create a report they can give to lawmakers. As of Aug. 1, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said 25 people were participating in the overnight protests and that estimated costs for policing the sit-in had risen to $264,000.