Florida Panel Reviewing ‘Stand Your Ground’ Unlikely to Make Major Changes

Since May, the Citizen Safety and Protection task force has been discussing and reviewing Florida’s controversial ‘Stand Your Ground’ law to make a determination as to whether the law should be amended by the state legislature. 

This week, after researchers from the University of Florida presented their preliminary findings regarding the impact of the law, the panel indicated that drastic changes to the Stand Your Ground were unnecessary, but will still take more time to reach a final recommendation.   

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law states that a person should have no duty to retreat if he/she reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm or the commission of a forcible felony, e.g. robbery. 

In a preliminary report, researchers at the university identified the following trends concerning Stand Your Ground since its expansion in 2005:

  • Homicides have increased
  • Overall, violent crime has continued to decrease
  • Tourism gains saw no significant change
  • So-called “justifiable homicides” have more than doubled
  • Applications for concealed weapons permits have tripled

The lead researcher, professor Monique Haughton Worrell of UF’s law school, told the panel that it’s too early to make definitive conclusions about the impact of law and more research is needed. 

“The data that we collected in response to the task force request is insufficient to provide a conclusion on this issue,” Worrell said. “It’s a complex issue, requiring complex analysis.”

Yet, co-author of the bill, Republican State Rep. Dennis Baxley thought that practically speaking, the panel had enough to go on.

“Facts are facts. The violent crime did not increase because of this law. I think we did hear … that tourism did not go down, it went up. Now, I don’t think we need to prove cause and effect or correlation,” Baxley said.

Of course, in the face of inconvenient truths, gun control advocates were quick to criticize UF’s report arguing that it didn’t go far enough in its analysis and then questioned its validity because it was done pro bono by the school.

“If the state wanted to work with a real data analysis, then fund it. It became pretty clear that they are going to fail to do that,” Ginny Simmons, director of the Second Chance on Shoot First campaign, told the Tampa Bay Times

A member of the Second Chance on Shoot First campaign, Allie Braswell, also voiced his disappointment.  He told Tampa Bay Online that he was disheartened by the level of support committee members showed Stand Your Ground.

“I always remain open that the right thing will be done and this law will be repealed,” said Braswell, “but I really see that as a challenge with this group.”

In addition to Rep. Baxley, the following panel members were supportive of the law, as reported by Tampa Bay Online:

Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley called the idea of redefining the law’s “duty to retreat” provision “incomprehensible.” The Rev. R.B. Holmes, the committee’s vice chairman, said it was “a Christian virtue.” Circuit Judge Krista Marx said the fact that 25 other states followed Florida’s lead in establishing such a law “speaks volumes.”

“There could be no more important right than to protect your life and the lives of your family members,” said Miami defense attorney Mark Seiden, who said it was a “God-given right.”

At this point, aside from maybe a few minor tweaks to ensure that the law is more uniformly applied from county to county (arguably the one main issue with the law, for more on this click here), it’s unlikely that Stand Your Ground will be amended and even more unlikely that it will be repealed. 

By all accounts, Stand Your Ground’s core principle of the use of reasonable self-defense outside the home will remain fully intact, which is, after all, the right conclusion and what the majority of Floridians actually support (NPR reported that two-thirds of Floridians believe that the law does not need to be changed).

Nevertheless, if you’re on the fence about Stand Your Ground or if you fall into that third who believes it needs to be altered or repealed, consider this brief lecture by Massad Ayoob:

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