The Florida legislator who has introduced a bill to repeal the state’s controversial "Stand Your Ground" law said that he feels the legislation represents an important matter of principle even though it faces a tough road in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.
Alan B. Williams, a Democrat from Tallahassee, said that the state’s "Stand Your Ground" law caused concern among him and other Black legislators in Florida even before the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin nearly a year ago in a suburb of Orlando.
“This law has struck many of us as a license to commit vigilante murder,” Williams said, in an interview with BET.com. “It seems as though a person can invoke the 'Stand Your Ground' law when it is really nothing more than a case of cold-blooded murder. That is a tremendous problem.”
The Florida "Stand Your Ground" law, like those in many other states, allows people to use deadly force against another person if they feel they are in imminent danger. Proponents say it is an important self-defense law while opponents have criticized it harshly, saying it encourages needless killing.
The issue drew national attention in the aftermath of the killing of the teenage Martin, who was shot while walking through a gated community unarmed. George Zimmerman, at the time a 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, said he acted in self-defense and that Trayvon Martin had accosted him.
Zimmerman, who is seeking to invoke the "Stand Your Ground" law, has been charged with second-degree murder. His trial is pending.
Williams said that there has been significant unease about the law, particularly in African-American and Latino communities in the state.
He added that in a House of Representatives where Republicans hold 76 seats with 44 held by Democrats, the chances of the bill passing are “tough, unless there is a significant public outcry.”
Still, he said, introducing the bill is a significant step. “Our laws are living documents and it’s our responsibility to always revisit these laws to make sure they are serving their intent,” Williams said.
“It is our job to be accountable to the people in this state,” he added. “When we lose one life, let alone multiple lives because people have claimed they were acting in self-defense and using the 'Stand Your Ground' law, it’s time to revisit this law. I feel an obligation to do this.”
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(Photo: House of the Clerk)