The Self-Defense Restoration Act would remove provisions in state law that state an individual does not have to retreat first before resorting to violence in self-defense. It would also expressly prohibit the use of deadly force if the person acting in self-defense knows they can avoid it by retreating.
Democratic state Sen. Shevrin Jones, who introduced the bill, said the current law “promotes vigilantism,” during a news conference Thursday.
“It allows people to shoot first and ask questions later,” he said. “More important, it puts Black people and other people of color at a greater risk of gun violence.”
He had filed an identical bill in 2019 that failed.
Everytown USA, a gun-safety advocacy group that worked with Jones on the proposal, has argued that Stand Your Ground laws result in more than 1,800 additional shooting deaths a year.
On Friday, which Jones noted would have been Trayvon Martin’s 26th birthday, the state senator said passing his repeal of Stand Your Ground would be “a great birthday gift.”
Shevrin Jones speaks during a debate over a bill on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.
Martin was shot and killed in 2012 after allegedly attacking a Neighborhood Watch coordinator named George Zimmerman.
Florida’s self-defense law has stirred controversy repeatedly in recent years after gun owners tried to use Stand Your Ground as a justification in a range of incidents since it passed in 2005. In addition to coming up in Martin’s death, the law made national headlines again in 2019 after Michael Drejka, a White man, shot and killed Markeis McGlockton, who was Black, over an altercation about a parking space in Clearwater.
Prosecutors argued the law did not apply in Drejka’s case and he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Stand Your Ground established the right for gun owners to apply lethal force to defend themselves against threats regardless of whether it was possible to retreat first. In 2017, state legislators revised the law to put the burden of proof on prosecutors to disprove a Stand Your Ground claim instead of on defense attorneys to prove it.
The law says a shooting is justified if a reasonable person under the circumstances would believe they are in danger of death or great bodily harm. But it also says the shooter could not have instigated the altercation.
Critics have argued that many gun deaths could be avoided if people were required to open fire only as a last resort.
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.