On the Death Anniversary of Trayvon Martin, Florida Legislators Look to Expand Stand Your Ground Law
Florida teen Trayvon Martin was shot and killed just over a year ago by a man claiming self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.
State legislators acknowledged the grim anniversary by introducing legislation that would expand the controversial law.
Rep. Neil Combee's bill would grant immunity to individuals who fired warning shots or who claim to have been defending others. While the current law is applicable only in the case of a lethal shooting, this proposal would protect shooters whether a victim was killed or not.
"Any expansion of Stand Your Ground is a move in the wrong direction," Central Florida Urban League President Allie Braswell told Campus Progress. "If you allow a warning shot, that's still a live round being shot in the air. Any time you fire a round, that has the potential to do harm."
Trayvon's violent death gained national attention and provoked strong reactions across the political spectrum.
Some questioned whether the law allows killers to avoid prosecution, or if it had racial implications. A report by the Tampa Bay Times found that 70 percent of defendants who invoke Stand Your Ground went free—a number that soared even higher when the victim was African American.
Others questioned whether the law effectively deters crime. A study from Texas A&M University suggests that it does not. Researchers found that Stand Your Ground laws in the 20 states they observed “do not deter burglary, robbery or aggravated assault. In contrast, they lead to a statistically significant 8 percent net increase in the number of reported murders and non-negligent manslaughters.”
Trayvon's death provoked Florida to assemble a task force to determine whether the law should be overturned. The task force—largely made up of supporters of the law, as well as some who participated in writing the legislation—found no reason for repeal.
But Braswell said the fight is not yet over, and that Millennials can play an important role.
"Young people have shown themselves to be a powerful voice of protest," Braswell said. "They need to stay vigilant in their desire to want better, because we are losing way too many young people to gun violence."
Kevin Jersey is a reporter for Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @wordsnotbullets.