The sponsor of Florida’s first-in-the-nation “Stand Your Ground” law, state Rep. Dennis Baxley, is among the 17 members of Gov. Rick Scott’s “Citizen Safety and Protection” task force that will begin meeting May 1, Scott announced Thursday.
Palm Beach County Judge Krista Marx will also sit on the panel, scheduled to hold meetings around the state and which also includes four state lawmakers from the Sanford area, a retired Florida Supreme Court judge, attorneys and a neighborhood watch volunteer.
Scott announced the formation of the task force in the aftermath of the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford. Sanford claimed he shot the 17-year-old in self-defense. The killing sparked a national outcry over Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that allows people to use deadly force when they feel threatened and provides immunity from prosecution.
“We are a nation and we are a state of laws. And I’m committing to letting our legal system work to ensure the people in our state are safe and protected,” Scott told reporters at a press conference this morning. “I’m a firm supporter of the Second Amendment. I also want to make sure that we do not rush to conclusions about the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law or any other laws in our state.”
Scott waited to get the task force up-and-running until special prosecutor Angela Corey, tapped by Scott to take over the investigation into Martin’s killing, arrested Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges earlier this month.
Task force chairwoman, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, a black former state House member who voted in favor of the 2005 law, and vice-chairman Rev. R. B. Holmes Jr., pastor of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee joined Scott at a press conference this morning announcing the launch of the task force, which will hold its first meeting in Tallahassee. The panel is made up of “racially, regionally and professionally” diverse members from Pensacola to Miami, Carroll said.
“The brilliance of this is you have the governor’s office saying let’s look at this, versus hot air maybe elsewhere. This committee has the opportunity to listen to the public at large, take their testimony and say these are our suggestions,” Holmes said.
All of Florida’s “justifiable use of force” statute, which includes the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, will be included within the task force’s scope of work, Carroll said. No one representing the National Rifle Association, which pushed Florida’s law and helped spread it to more than two dozen other states, will be on the panel because no one from the organization applied, Carroll said.
The task force will take public testimony, gather data with the help of the University of Florida law school and make recommendations to the governor and legislative leaders before the legislature meets again in March, Carroll said.
Scott’s office has also set up a website for the panel – www.flgov.com/citizensafety – an e-mail account – firstname.lastname@example.org – and a Twitter handle – @FLCitizenSafety – where the public can review the task force’s work and provide input.
Although the task force’s main focus will be on the justifiable use of force section of Florida law, Chapter 776, the group may also look into some of the state’s many other gun laws, Scott said.
“This task force is going to take input from people about public safety. ‘Stand your ground’ is part of it. But thank goodness we live in a state where the crime rate is at a 40-year low. I want to keep it that way. We all want to keep it that way. If there’s laws that are impacting that, where people don’t feel comfortable, I want to know about it. We all want to know about it,” Scott said.
See the full list of Scott’s task force after the jump.