Gov. Rick Scott named 17 members of the state’s new Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, announcing that the group will begin looking at Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law in two weeks. The first meeting will be May 1.
The group includes four lawmakers—including the representative that sponsored Stand Your Ground in 2005 and one who says he helped write it—and several legal and law enforcement professionals.
“We have tapped a diverse and qualified group to carefully review our laws and our policies,” said Scott, standing next to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who will chair the task force.
In addition to Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who sponsored the law, Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando and Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, will serve on the task force.
Looking at the records of those lawmakers and other elected officials involved, there appears to be a pro-Stand-Your-Ground, pro-gun-rights slant among the elected officials involved in the task force.
Simmons told the Herald/Times bureau that he helped draft the final language of the Stand Your Ground law as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and was Baxley's roommate at the time.
Siplin was part of the Senate that passed the law unanimously.
Brodeur was not in the Legislature when the bill passed, but he is listed as a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which helped spread the law across the nation. He also sponsored a 2011 so called "docs-vs-Glocks" law that prevents doctors from asking patients about gun ownership, with harsh penalties including the loss of medical license for those who don't comply.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and Carroll all played a role in choosing the task force members. Each of them co-sponsored and voted for the Stand Your Ground law.
Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, also was involved in the selection process. He was not in the House for the vote, but is also listed as a member of ALEC.
Carroll said the task force will show her whether her vote in favor of the law was a mistake.
Several Democratic lawmakers who expressed interest in being involved in the task force were not included. Many of them have less gun-friendly voting records than the lawmakers who were selected. Carroll said there was an application process, and only those who applied were considered.
Siplin said he was excited to get started on the task force, although he didn't mention filling out an application.
"I think it’s needed as a result of what happened in the Trayvon Martin case," he said. "The seemingly alarming number of deaths surrounding the stand your ground law [means] we need to look at it and see if it needs to be tweaked."
Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, who started his own task force to look at the law, said he knew nothing about an application process and was disappointed that he was not selected.
“When the governor announced his task force, he stated who he’d get recommendations from," Smith said. "I called those people and expressed my desire to serve. And I’ve expressed publicly in many news outlets my desire to serve. So I was surprised that there was an application process that I did not know about.”
The task force was spurred by the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon, which has put an international spotlight on the state of Florida and its controversial self defense laws.
Trayvon was shot and killed on Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, who volunteered as a neighborhood watchman at a subdivision in Sanford.
According to investigators, Trayvon was walking through the subdivision when he was “profiled” and “confronted” by Zimmerman, leading to a struggle and a fatal shooting.
That account is disputed by Zimmerman, who is facing second-degree murder charges and claiming self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Zimmerman claims Trayvon attacked him, forcing him to fire his 9mm in self-defense.
Similar defenses have been used successfully by Floridians more than 130 times since the Stand Your Ground law passed, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis. The law grants immunity to people who use deadly force in self-defense, and so-called justifiable homicides have tripled in the past six years.
The task force, which will define its mission at the May 1 meeting, may look into the issue of racial profiling as well.
Another safety issue that has been captured by the national spotlight in this case is the state’s permissive gun laws. Zimmerman was one of more than 920,000 Floridians who are licensed to carry concealed guns, a number that trounces every other state and bests Texas by a 2-to-1 ratio.
In the past decade, a number of laws have passed making it easier to own guns and carry them into more and more places in Florida, turning Florida into what some call the “Gunshine State”
The task force could also look at those laws, although Scott reiterated that he’s a “firm supporter of the Second Amendment.”
Scott pointed out that Florida's crime rate is at a 40 year low, but said he would be willing to look at any laws that made citizens feel uncomfortable.
No members of the National Rifle Association are on the task force, although the group wields considerable sway in the Legislature.
The NRA, which has since helped spread Stand Your Ground to 24 other states, is pushing back against efforts to repeal or amend the law. It could work behind the scenes to block any changes to stand your ground from passing both chambers.
The task force is accepting feedback from public via e-mail, its website and Twitter. The task force e-mail: CitizenSafety@eog.myflorida.com. Website:www.FLGov.com/citizensafety. Twitter: @FLCitizenSafety
Here’s a list on the 17 members of the task force. We’ll have more on them soon:
Chair: Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll
Reverend R.B. Holmes Jr, the pastor of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee
- · Sheriff Larry Ashley, of Shalimar, Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
- · State Representative Dennis Baxley, of Ocala, Florida House of Representatives, District 24.
- · Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth B. Bell, of Pensacola, shareholder with Clark Partington Hart Larry Bond and Stackhouse.
- · State Representative Jason Brodeur, of Sanford, Florida House of Representatives, District 33.
- · Derek E. Bruce, of Orlando, attorney with Edge Public Affairs.
- · Joseph A. Caimano Jr., of Tampa, criminal defense attorney with Caimano Law Group.
- · Edna Canino, of Miami, president of the Florida Embassy of League of United Latin American Citizens, Council 7220.
- · Gretchen Lorenzo, of Fort Myers, neighborhood watch coordinator for the Fort Myers Police Department.
- · Judge Krista Marx, of West Palm Beach, Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida.
- · Maria Newman, of Melbourne, neighborhood watch volunteer with the City of Melbourne.
- · Katherine Fernandez Rundle, of Miami, state attorney for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit.
- · Stacy A. Scott, of Gainesville, public defender with the Eighth Judicial Circuit.
- · Mark Seiden, of Miami, self-employed attorney.
- · State Senator David Simmons, of Altamonte Springs, Florida Senate, District 22.
- · State Senator Gary Siplin, of Orlando, Florida Senate, District 19.