'Stand your ground' law changes approved

Committee votes 7-2 to approve changes to Fla. self-defense law


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida's controversial "stand your ground" self-defense law got its first legislative review Tuesday since first passed 2005. Even minor changes are being met with concern.

The original author of "stand your ground" made it clear.

"It is an excellent common sense law, but it's not perfect," said Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs).

When neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, he was sent home under the belief that police were powerless to investigate stand your ground claims. The compromise legislation fixes that.

"We have, not only the obligation but a desire to get to the bottom," said Larry Ashley, Okaloosa County Sheriff of Florida Sheriff's Association. "We are fact finders."

The legislation also clarifies that aggressors and law breakers can't assert "stand your ground."

"You can't rely upon self-defense if you are the person who provokes the use of force," said Simmons.

The NAACP, which prefers an outright repeal told lawmakers:

"It's harder for black defendants to assert 'stand your ground' defense if the victim is white, and easier for whites to raise if the 'stand your ground' defense, if the victims are black," said Kim Keenan of NAACP Legal Counsel.

The Committee voted 7-2 to approve the changes. The NRA said the legislation misses its mark.

"Yes, we're luke-warm. We don't think it does a lot of good, but in its current state," said Marion Hammer of Unified Sportsmen of Fla. "We don't think it does a lot of harm, although there's potential."

Still to be worked out is whether law enforcement will be required to train for just issued guidelines to neighborhood watch groups.

The legislation also limits immunity for someone using force, which signals trouble ahead for the purposed changes.