Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which was the central issue in the George Zimmerman trial, is one step closer to getting an overhaul.
According to the Orlando Sentinel on Oct. 8, a Florida Senate panel approved of the changes to the current law, which allows citizens to use deadly force without trying to retreat if they feel their lives are in danger.
One of the changes in the law would allow lawsuits against people acting in self-defense if they negligently injure or kill an innocent bystander. Pro gun-rights groups and several Republicans who served on the Senate panel expressed some concern about that part of the revised bill. Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) told the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Florida's Stand Your Ground law has been the subject of intense public debate and scrutiny. I think everyone has found it is an excellent, common sense law. But it is not perfect.
The revised bill would also require sheriffs and city police departments to set certain guidelines for neighborhood watch programs and restricts it's members to just observing and reporting suspected crimes. Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale) told the Sentinel that the guidelines would prevent future incidents like what happened on that fateful night in February of 2012. Smith told the Sentinel:
After what happened in Sanford we want to send a message to neighborhood watch programs....about what is acceptable behavior.
The revisions in the "Stand Your Ground" bill comes from flaws within the original bill that were exposed during the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman saga.
The revised bill would also prohibit "aggressors" in confrontations from claiming "stand your ground" for immunity. And the bill would also require law enforcement to conduct a full investigation into shootings, even if it was claimed in self-defense. That portion of the law was spurred by the claim that the Sanford police department could not conduct a full investigation because Zimmerman claimed self-defense.
The bill passed the state Senate Judiciary Committee by a 7 to 2 vote.
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