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What's next for state's Stand Your Ground law?

Second Amendment advocates try to override Supreme Court decision

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the second year in a row, Second Amendment advocates in the Florida Legislature are trying to override a Supreme Court decision they say turned the state’s Stand Your Ground law upside down.

Meanwhile, opponents say the change would stack the deck against justice.
   
Florida’s Stand Your Ground statute says police can’t arrest people who claim they feared for their lives or that of others unless an investigation finds the use of force was illegal.

But since a 2015 Supreme Court of Florida ruling, courts have required a hearing in which a defendant has the burden to prove force was necessary. State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, questions the move.

“Most Floridians understand intuitively that the government has the burden of proof throughout a prosecution,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park. “So what this bill does is to ensure that the government has the burden of proof -- not just at trial, but the immunity hearing, as well.”
          
The move is opposed by prosecutors. Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocaka, passed Stand Your Ground in 2005 as a House member.

“We did this for the law-abiding citizens,” Baxley said. “We didn't do it for the prosecutors.”

On the other side, State Sen. Gary Farmer would like to see Stand Your Ground go away completely.

“This sort of cowboy mentality of shoot first and claim it was justified later -- I don’t think that’s the best policy for our state,” said Farmer, D-Broward County.

And Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said prosecutors should forget the hearing and just charge someone.

“We get to justice quicker if we go to charging and build the case from there,” Gibson said.

Among the slew of gun bills proposed this year, many believe the Stand Your Ground changes have the best chance of passing.

The legislation passed the Senate last year, but not the House.

A call to the State Prosecutors Association for comment on this story was not returned.