Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Politics

Stand Your Ground law's impact needs more study, task force told

RECOMMENDED READING


TALLAHASSEE — Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll has repeatedly said that the task force commissioned to look into Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law will make its decision based on facts, not emotions.

But Carroll and 18 other task force members learned Wednesday that those facts — like many stand your ground cases — can be difficult to pin down.

A University of Florida professor presented a slew of data tracking trends in crime, gun ownership and tourism since the 2005, but ultimately concluded that no definitive connections could be made yet to the stand your ground law.

"The data that we collected in response to the task force request is insufficient to provide a conclusion on this issue," said professor Monique Haughton Worrell of UF's law school. "It's a complex issue, requiring complex analysis."

Worrell told task force members meeting in West Palm Beach that a more in-depth study would be needed before the university could determine a connection between stand your ground and crime rates, gun ownership or tourism in Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott commissioned the task force in the wake of the February shooting death of Miami Gardens teenager Trayvon Martin, which thrust the state's controversial gun laws into a national spotlight. The task force will meet in Cutler Bay on Thursday.

Trayvon, 17, was shot by a Sanford neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, who claims that he was acting in self-defense. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder several weeks after the shooting, after nationwide protests and the appointment of a special prosecutor.

The 2005 law allows anyone to use deadly force if they feel in danger of great harm. The UF preliminary report found that in the seven years since the law passed:

• Homicides have increased;

• Violent crime has continued to decrease;

• Tourism gains saw no significant change;

• So-called "justifiable homicides" have more than doubled;

• Applications for concealed weapons permits have tripled.

But Worrell cautioned strongly against reading too much into those raw numbers. For example, violent crime had already been on the decline nationwide prior to 2005, and several other factors impact the crime and homicide rates, other than Stand Your Ground.

Gun control advocates immediately criticized the report as "disappointing," saying it did not go far enough to determine the true impact of the stand your ground law.

"If the state wanted to work with a real data analysis, then fund it. It became pretty clear that they are going to fail to do that," said Ginny Simmons, director of the Second Chance on Shoot First campaign. The UF study was done at no charge to the state, a spokesperson for Scott said.

The author of the law, Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said the data proved wrong those who predicted the law would harm tourism and lead to a spike in crime.

As the task force — which has been meeting across the state since May — held its first meeting Wednesday in South Florida, the public testimony was generally in opposition to the law.

Only a handful of people spoke during the meeting, with most saying the self-defense law had led to tragic miscarriages of justice.

David Boden, whose son, Jason, was shot to death while unarmed in 2009, said prosecutors told him they couldn't bring charges against the shooter because of the Stand Your Ground law.

"How many more have to die?" asked Boden, choking up during remarks to the panel. "This law is creating more problems than it is solving."

Members of the task force debated several options for amending the law, and will continue that effort on Thursday when it meets at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.

Miami Herald reporter Frances Robles contributed to this report.

Comments
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Updated: 9 hours ago
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17
As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Sunday that the White House is willing to remove a contentious provision taking aim at the Affordable Care Act from the GOP tax overhaul plan if politically necessary, a move ...
Published: 11/19/17

Many Christian conservatives are backing Alabama’s Roy Moore

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama’s Christian conservatives see Roy Moore as their champion. He has battled federal judges and castigated liberals, big government, gun control, Muslims, homosexuality and anything else that doesn’t fit the evangelical mold. ...
Published: 11/19/17
Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

WASHINGTON — It’s been nearly six years since the Senate Ethics Committee conducted a major investigation of a sitting senator. Next year, the panel could be working nonstop, deciding the fate of up to three lawmakers, including two facing allegation...
Published: 11/18/17
PolitiFact: Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Here’s why

PolitiFact: Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Here’s why

Before gobbling turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie — or engaging in a well-informed political spat with your family — some of you might wonder where the Thanksgiving tradition originated.We wondered, too. So we talked with historians to get the facts s...
Updated: 4 hours ago
In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

UTICA, N.Y.Pat Marino pulled into the shop on a cold, wet Thursday and stood close as a young mechanic with gelled-up hair and earrings lifted the truck and ducked underneath."You need a little bit more oil," the mechanic said."Five quarts wasn’t eno...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/20/17
Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners recently decided to go after the pocketbooks of several residents who filed unsuccessful ethics complaints against one of their colleagues.If history is any indicator, the maneuver is more likely to cost taxp...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/19/17