Florida task force begins review of 'Stand Your Ground' law



SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - A task force created to review the state's Stand Your Ground law held its first public meeting Tuesday.

The law has been under fire since George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February.

The meeting was held at the Northland Church in Longwood.

The public and Martin's parents got their chance to speak out.

Martin's parents arrived with more than 300,000 signatures from people around the state who want the law repealed.

Martin's parents asked the task force to support creating a Trayvon Martin amendment, saying that someone can't pursue someone else and still use the Stand Your Ground as a defense.

"The way that it's applied doesn't make sense to me," said Martin's mother, Sabrina Fulton.

"Had he stayed in his vehicle, listened to the dispatcher's instructions, he wouldn't have had a reason to stand his ground," said Martin's father, Tracy Martin.

When Zimmerman killed Martin on Feb. 26, he told Sanford police that he shot the unarmed teenager in the chest because he feared his own life was in danger.

But Zimmerman was not arrested because Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said Zimmerman was protected by Florida's Stand Your Ground law.

"I cannot speak to the Zimmerman case because I don't know the actual, factual information that will be presented in his court, nor is this task force about the Zimmerman case. The task force is about the public safety laws that exist, and is it fairly applied," said Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll.

During the meeting, as the task force listened to public comment, there was a war of words between those who support the law and those who oppose it.

"This is a good law. It is not broken. Please don't try to fix it," said supporter B.J. McClure.

"When I stand my ground, that means war is declared and any time war is declared, anything goes. And that's what you're saying with that particular law," said Eddie Diamond Jr., who opposes the law.

The task force was formed after national pressure and a plea from Martin's parents to repeal the law.

The panel is led by Carroll, and there's a mix of law enforcement, citizens, attorneys and lawmakers.

About 1,700 people have bombarded the state with emails and letters.

The president of the Central Florida Urban League, Allie Braswell, worries that the law is dangerous.

"This law gives more leeway to a private citizen to walk around with a gun and make a decision to shoot someone than it does with the rules of engagement given to people on the battlefield," said Braswell.

Just like Gov. Rick Scott, Carroll refused to say if the law should be repealed or revised.

However, Carroll did say the law has been taken out of context.

"What individuals have then claimed this law to be is 'shoot first,' and that's far from the truth. Because the law clearly says you have an opportunity to retreat. If you have that opportunity to do so, then you do so," Carroll said.

It was the first of six meetings. The next is in Arcadia.

Carroll plans to turn over a report to the governor for consideration by the end of the year, but it will be next time this year before the legislature votes on any proposed changes.