Florida House of Representatives Speaker Will Weatherfold (R) announced on Friday that Florida legislators will hold hearings in the fall concerning the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, which allows people to use deadly force in self-defense when they believe their life is at risk.
The announcement comes nearly a month after a not-guilty verdict was reached in the George Zimmerman trial. Two jurors stated that because of the Stand Your Ground law, they had no choice but to acquit Zimmerman, who fatally shot unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin.
After the acquittal, Martin’s parents were joined by civic leaders, students, and political figures — including President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder — in urging Florida to review the law.
“Across Florida, representatives are receiving calls, letters, visits and emails from constituents with diverse opinions on ‘Stand Your Ground,’” Weatherfold said in his announcement.
He also asked: “Does the law keep the innocent safer? Is it being applied fairly? Are there ways we can make this law clearer and more understandable?”
These are the same questions being asked across Florida and the nation by those who fear that the law only protects a few privileged groups of people.
Critics argue that the law is not applied fairly across the board, and also allows anyone who deems another person threatening – even if only because of race or gender – to use lethal force against that person.
Race also plays a significant role in how a person is prosecuted in the context of the law.
A national Quinnipiac University poll released on Friday found that most voters support the Stand Your Ground laws, but that gender, race, and ideology divide Americans on the question of whether to retreat or use deadly force in self-defense. The poll also found that a majority of white voters and men support the laws, black voters generally oppose them, and women are more evenly divided.