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Florida Lawmakers Debate To Repeal Infamous Stand Your Ground Law


Today in Florida, Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill that would repeal a law often called Stand Your Ground. It's a measure that allows people to use deadly force when acting in self-defense. The law is controversial, but in the 16 years since Florida passed it, Stand Your Ground has been adopted by most U.S. states. NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Democrats have attempted to repeal or modify Florida's Stand Your Ground statute nearly every year since 2012. That was the year Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman confronted, then shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin as he returned home from a gas station. A jury determined Zimmerman acted in self-defense and acquitted him, sparking a national outcry. Chryl Anderson is with Florida Moms Demand Action, a group fighting to stop gun violence.

CHRYL ANDERSON: Stand Your Ground must end - for two young men, forever 17, Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin, whose birthdays are this month.

ALLEN: Jordan Davis, an African American like Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by a white man in a dispute over loud music. Stand Your Ground was cited, but his assailant was convicted of murder. Shevrin Jones, a Democratic state senator, says Stand Your Ground laws make communities less safe.

SHEVRIN JONES: We know for a fact Stand Your Ground promotes vigilantism and allows people to shoot first and ask questions later. But more importantly, it puts Black people and other people of color at greater risk of gun violence.

ALLEN: In states with Stand Your Ground laws, an analysis of FBI data found when the gunman is white and the victim is Black, homicides are five times more likely to be deemed justified than when the situation is reversed. After Florida passed the first Stand Your Ground law in 2005, Robin Thomas with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says many other states followed suit, largely because of intense lobbying by the National Rifle Association.

ROBYN THOMAS: These laws just were passed sort of methodically, particularly in red states, state by state by state, over the course of about 10 years.

ALLEN: Twenty-seven states now have Stand Your Ground laws. High-profile cases like those involving Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis have helped build opposition to Stand Your Ground laws, but so far, no state has repealed its version. In Florida, even the sponsor of the repeal measure, Senator Jones, isn't optimistic it has a chance in a chamber controlled by Republicans.

JONES: In Florida, we're just going to have to continue making the noise and letting them know that we won't shut up until we will be heard.

ALLEN: A spokesperson for Florida's NRA said she had no comment on the repeal effort because she hasn't seen the bill.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.