Florida state Rep. Alan Williams (D) is planning to renew his efforts targeting his state's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, he said Sunday.
The self-defense statute, adopted in Florida in 2005, allows victims of perceived crimes to use force when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat. The recent trial of George Zimmerman, the Florida man acquitted over the weekend in the 2012 killing of unarmed teenager Trayon Martin, brought newfound scrutiny on the law, though his defense ultimately didn't use “Stand Your Ground” during the court proceedings.
Williams, who has pressed for the repeal of "Stand Your Ground" in the past, said he still had concerns about the law, which initially allowed Zimmerman to go free for almost two months after the shooting due to state rules that require police to provide evidence to refute self-defense claims by alleged victims.
"Law enforcement wasn't able to apply the law because they didn't understand the law," Williams told WCTV. "And so now we have, I think, an opportunity to help our law enforcement community by going out and clarifying the language."
Williams has announced his intent to submit two "Stand Your Ground" bills in the next legislative session, one to repeal the law altogether and another to clarify the statute.
A measure to change to Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law considerably was introduced by state Sen. Chris Smith (D) last year. Among the legislation's suggested alterations was a measure to delete "the provisions that make justifiable use of force available to an aggressor who initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself." The bill ultimately failed, though Davis said that Zimmerman's acquittal proved lawmakers needed to take another look at how "Stand Your Ground" plays into the state's "fuzzily defined and broadly drawn" self-defense laws.
As the Center for Media and Democracy reports, a number of studies have found that "Stand Your Ground" is applied differently depending on the race of the victim and perpetrator.
The Tampa Bay Times found that people who killed a black person walked free 73 percent of the time, while those who killed a white person went free 59 percent of the time. Other studies have shown that "Stand Your Ground" is more likely to be applied in cases of white-on-black crime, and in May, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights launched an investigation into racial bias and "Stand Your Ground" laws.
While many have criticized Florida's "stand your ground" law, a blue-ribbon task force commissioned by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) officially recommended that the state keep the law earlier this year.