Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Poor start for review of 'stand your ground'

Gov. Rick Scott responded smartly to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by creating a task force to review Florida's ill-conceived "stand your ground law.'' But the governor undermined the board's independence by including on the panel the legislator who drafted the law and still defends it as well as the legislator who sponsored the bill and contends it is only being misused by police and prosecutors. Now the task force's objectivity is shot before it even meets.

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer facing second-degree murder charges in 17-year-old Martin's death, is one of a long list of Floridians who have invoked "stand your ground" to justify killing in what they claim was self-defense. Since the law's passage in 2005, "justifiable homicides" in the state have tripled, with "stand your ground" used to justify killings in gang battles, bar fights and road rage incidents. A review is overdue.

The task force will be led by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, and Scott turned to House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, for recommendations. All three had co-sponsored and voted for "stand your ground." Of the four lawmakers they recommended not a single one has criticized the law or represents Martin's home area of Miami Gardens. The four include Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who sponsored the law and has defended it since the Martin shooting; Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland; Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando; and Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford.

Simmons helped draft the final language of "stand your ground," and Siplin voted for it. Brodeur wasn't in the Legislature at the time but is a supporter of expanded gun rights and a member of the special interest group that pushed for "stand your ground" legislation. Other task force members include law enforcement, defense attorneys and watch volunteers.

Critics of the law such as Democratic Sens. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa and Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale wanted seats on the task force. Carroll contends Smith had not applied and that selection was based on an application process. But Siplin, who was chosen, says he didn't submit an application. Was there really a formal application process that every prospective task force member went through? Or is that just a convenient excuse by Carroll? Smith had launched his own task force out of frustration with the governor's efforts. That initially seemed premature, but now it appears justified with Scott's task force already tainted.

Putting together an impartial panel to objectively review the controversial law in the wake of Martin's death was a political challenge, but it could have been done. The ham-handed effort has resulted in a task force that is less politically balanced than it should be to instill public confidence in its work, and it raises questions about Scott's intentions. The first meeting is May 1. The panel could rise above expectations, but it's not a promising start.

Comments
Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18