Friday, December 15, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Deck stacked on 'stand ground'

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford cannot defend the "stand your ground" law on its merits, so he's stacking the deck. Weatherford has ordered hearings on the law, which would be a positive development if he had not appointed an unabashed supporter of the law to chair the meetings. The last thing this state needs is another sham hearing with a predetermined outcome.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, will chair the hearings and already says he opposes "changing one damn comma of the 'stand your ground' law.'' This is a political charade masquerading as a legitimate legislative inquiry where all views should be represented. If the intent is only to defend the law, then drop the pretense and NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer can hold hearings at Republican Party headquarters.

Weatherford's hearings are a political response to the protesters who have been camped in the Capitol for more than two weeks and want the "stand your ground" law repealed. The protests began after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, and they are drawing national attention. Gaetz calls the critics of the law "the radical left,'' but there is plenty of objective evidence the law has had deadly consequences that its supporters in the Legislature did not anticipate.

A Tampa Bay Times investigation last year reviewed about 200 cases involving the 2005 "stand your ground" law, which allows the use of lethal force and eliminates the duty to retreat if a person reasonably believes his or her life is in danger. In about one-third of the cases, the defendant started the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued the victim but still went free. The victim was unarmed in more than half of the cases where the killer went free. Drug dealers, gang members and other criminals have successfully used the law to avoid being convicted for killing someone.

Despite overwhelming evidence that the law is fatally flawed, Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature continue to defend it. A task force appointed by the governor and stacked with the law's supporters recommended only modest changes last year. The Legislature had an opportunity this spring to be proactive before the Zimmerman trial, but even those slight changes failed to come before the full House and Senate.

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, may have felt his hands were tied in appointing Gaetz to run the hearings because Gaetz chairs the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. But the least the speaker can do is tell Gaetz to choose between advocating for the law and running the hearings — and appoint a more open-minded co-chair. Instead of holding more one-sided hearings, the Legislature should be holding a special session to repeal a bad law that has damaged Florida's image, endangered its residents and cannot be fixed.

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Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

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Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

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Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

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Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

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Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17