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The gun-shine state loves Stand Your Ground

Picture 4Florida is still the gun-shine state.

Though much maligned nationally, the state's "stand your ground" law at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting case is well-liked by a majority of Florida voters, according to a new poll conducted by Quinnipiac University.

About 56 percent support the law and 35 percent oppose it, the poll released Thursday shows.

A majority opposes stricter gun-control laws. And a plurality of voters think that Tampa shouldn't be allowed to ban guns during the August Republican National Convention. But one place where an overwhelming majority Florida voters — 83 percent — think guns don't belong: the state Capitol.

That last finding drew a chuckle from gun-law critic Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democratic senator who's trying to amend "stand your ground" in the wake of the Trayvon shooting.

"Floridians love their guns," he said. "And they love the idea of "stand your ground". But when they learn it gives shooters immunity from arrest — when they learn it gives a tremendous presumption used by gangsters and thugs — then even my conservative friends think it should be changed."

But the National Rifle Association, which drafted the 2005 law and holds tremendous sway in the Florida Legislature, is fighting any changes to "stand your ground". The NRA for years has expanded gun rights and persuaded the Legislature to limit police, prosecutors and employers from controlling, monitoring or cracking down on guns.

The 2005 "stand your ground" law drew intense scrutiny after 17-year-old Travyon Martin, of Miami Gardens, was shot and killed on Feb. 26 in Sanford as he returned home from a convenience store. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, was charged with second-degree murder. He claims he shot the teen in self-defense.

Under the law, a person can "meet force with force" and can use deadly force if a person "reasonably" feels he's in mortal peril. The law eliminated a citizen's duty to retreat if confronted in public.

Zimmerman wasn't initially arrested and charged. Police cited "stand your ground". A national uproar ensued.

"Despite the controversy, public opinion seems to be solidly behind '"stand your ground"' and slightly against stricter gun control," said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac's polling institute.

Support for the "stand your ground" law ran mostly along political party lines, the poll showed. Republicans overwhelmingly support it, 78-15 percent. Independents also support it, 58-35 percent. Democrats oppose it, 59-32 percent. Men back the law, 65-31 percent, while women favor it, 48-39 percent. Support is 61-31 percent among white voters. Hispanic voters support it, 53-36 percent. Black voters oppose it, 56-30 percent.

The law's strongest support comes from the state's most-rural and conservative areas, North Florida and the Panhandle, where 65 percent favor "stand your ground" and 30 percent oppose it. The least support was in liberal South Florida, Trayvon's home, where 46 percent favor it and 44 percent oppose it.

Picture 3Generally, when it comes to gun control, the poll shows 51 percent oppose stricter laws and 45 percent favor them. A narrower segment of the electorate, 49 percent, say Tampa should be allowed to temporarily ban guns during the RNC convention while 46 favor the idea. Voters from the Tampa Bay region are the most-inclined to favor the temporary RNC ban.

State Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican and drafter of the "stand your ground" bill, said he was comforted with the wide support for gun rights and the specific support for "stand your ground".

"It reflects that largely people endorse the idea of self-empowerment and standing with victims of violent attacks," he said. "We continue to see a reduction in violent crime. These are strong reasons to be very careful when people talk about changing this law."


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Bill Clinton

This is the pertinent part of the Stand Your Ground statute:

"Use of force in defense of person.—

A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; . . ."

The key phrase is "reasonably believes." A jury ultimately determines whether any given situation gave reasonable cause to believe deadly force was necessary.

Chris Smith asserts that this statute enables "gangsters and thugs" to operate with impunity. Smith, frankly, is either stupid as a stump or he is lying. But then he's merely following the example of either the current Vice President or President, the leaders of his party.

Ken Sarvis

Here in Tallahassee there was a gang shootout a year or so ago between four to six guys and no one was arrested because of this law. I guess that makes me stupid too.

Bill Clinton

Well, if you've got two rival gangs shooting it out, I suppose every participant could be assumed to have a reasonable belief the situation posed a threat of imminent death.

The problem there would be innocent bystanders, if any.

It's just a pity they weren't better shots. I assume Darwin's Law didn't get exercised, since you don't mention any casualties.

Bill Clinton

The other thing about that would be: none of these gang bangers were carrying concealed without a permit? None of them were felons in possession of a firearm? None of them were holding dope? Drunk in public? Open container violation? Control of a motor vehicle without a valid license? Jaywalking? Anything at all?


The quotation in Mr. Clinton's first post is from Florida Statutes 776.012, which is straight self defense rather than stand your ground (776.013(3)). Once someone actually attacks you, you are RESPONDING to force with force rather than MEETING force with force.

In the case of the gang shootout, there would be no self-defense claim allowed per Florida Statutes 776.041, which denies self-defense protection during the commission of a forcible felony.

Bill Clinton

JD -

Thanks for clarifying and correcting. I apologize for having cut and pasted in haste.


For anyone who cannot understand why FS 790.032, please Google "Jay Lewis Iowa" and read his story. Briefly, Iowa didn't have a "stand your ground" statute when Mr. Lewis was forced to defend his life. Despite being acquitted by a jury, Mr. Lewis literally lost everything he owned and became homeless after the trial. Iowa adopted SYG shortly thereafter.


How many criminals have uttered the words, "Self-defense" after a murder? Yet SYG haters say that current self-defense law is fine and that SYG isn't needed. Why is anyone surprised when a douchebag claims "Stand Your Ground" instead? It's not the law's fault. Nor is the law bad because police didn't understand how it was designed to work or the prosecutor was ignorant of how it applies (and how it does not). While I'm a fan of the law, I'm not opposed to some added verbiage so that idiot LEO professionals know what to do with the thing.

Erik Asher

Get this straight gun hating people in south Florida. Florida is not NY, NJ, or wherever else you came from. If you don't like law abiding citizens to be able to defend themselves or carry guns, MOVE BACK from where you came from. To those that want to have the ability to defend yourselves, VOTE OUT these rabid anti-gun mayors, sheriffs, and state legislators.

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