Should 'stand your ground' stay or go?

State lawmakers speak out about controversial law

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The acquittal of George Zimmerman and the high-profile cases of Marissa Alexander and Michael Dunn in Jacksonville have cast a renewed spotlight on Florida's "stand your ground" law, even though Zimmerman ended up not using "stand your ground" in his defense and it's unclear if Dunn will.

Now the nation's top attorney, Attorney General Eric Holder, says the controversial law should be changed.

Thirty-one states currently have stand your ground laws. Under the law, someone could shoot or kill somebody if they feel they are in danger and never go to trial for it. Many say that's just not right.

"Stand your ground is not in this book. It's not here in the Constitution," said James Evans-Muhammad, of the New Black Panther Party.

The party petitioned for change in downtown Jacksonville on Wednesday. Party members say stand your ground is downright dangerous. And some lawmakers agree.

"I am not against self-defense at all. But to make things so broad that just about any individual can claim the defense either stand your ground or just plain self-defense, it's really a counter to safety," state Sen. Audrey Gibson said.

Gibson said she's working with lawmakers to repeal the controversial rule, which basically says a person can use deadly force and dodge prosecution if they feel reasonably threatened for either death or serious injury. On Tuesday, Holder took aim at the law at an NAACP conference in Orlando.

"It's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods," Holder said.

While stand your ground has a lot of people gunning for a repeal, many remain standing behind it, like state Rep. Dennis Baxley, who helped found the self-defense statute in 2005.

"We do want to empower law-abiding citizens to defend themselves from violent attack," Baxley said. "We actually have a shared goal with our critics. We would like to see a reduced number of victims of violent crime."

State Rep. Mia Jones said she's meeting with a group of lawmakers in Tallahassee to discuss a way to get rid of the controversial law. And state Rep. Daniel Davis isn't saying the law should stay or go, but he said it should be looked at and made clearer.

Before the Zimmerman case, Governor Rick Scott appointed a Stand Your Ground Task force to evaluate the law. The group concluded that the statute was constitutional and did not need to change.

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