Requiring individuals to be in imminent danger before they can use deadly force, giving law enforcement officials the ability to arrest people who claim they killed or injured someone in self-defense and sending all “Stand Your Ground” cases to a grand jury would improve Florida’s self-defense laws, according to recommendations made by Sen. Chris Smith today.
Smith convened his own task force to look into the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law in the wake of the national outcry over the death of Trayvon Martin two months ago. Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman claimed he shot the unarmed 17-year-old in self-defense, focusing attention of Florida’s first-in-the-nation law and subsequent other states’ laws that allow individuals to use deadly force when they feel threatened.
The Fort Lauderdale Democrat released a set of suggestions crafted by a panel of lawyers, judges and law professors the day before a task force set up by Gov. Rick Scott is scheduled to hold its first meeting tomorrow.
Smith offered six unanimous recommendations and several others signed off on by a majority of the 18-member panel. Smith said he is giving the suggestions to Scott, his task force (headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, a National Rifle Association life member), and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.
While most of the group wanted to repeal Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, Smith said the majority was not large enough to include doing away with the law in its recommendations.
Instead, he offered a suite of tweaks to ensure the safety of the state’s citizens, Smith, a lawyer, said.
“No reasonable person can say this is a perfect law,” Smith told reporters at a press conference this afternoon.
The other three recommendations are:
- Educate the public and law enforcement about the law and how to do use it. Smith said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement should provide a specific set of procedures to create uniformity in how the law is applied throughout hte state.
- Create a system to track self-defense claims in Florida.
- Change the name of the statute to “Use of Force in Defense of Property” instead of its current title “Use of Force in Defense of Others.”
Smith said lawmakers should convene a special session before the regular session begins in March to change the law.