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‘Stand your ground’: Democratic, Republican gubernatorial candidates split on what to do now

All five Democratic candidates express severe concerns about the 2005 law with most proposing repeal or major changes. The Republicans? Ron DeSantis didn't respond to questions and Adam Putnam supports the law as it is.
Video footage of Thursday's shooting at a Circle A Food Store in Pinellas County. [Times]
Video footage of Thursday's shooting at a Circle A Food Store in Pinellas County. [Times]
Published Jul. 24, 2018

Want a good example of just how far apart the two major parties in Florida are?

Take the reactions of the seven candidates running for Florida governor over last week's shooting death of Markeis McGlockton.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri  says his agency can't arrest Michael Drejka, even though video clearly shows him shooting McGlockton.

Gaultieri said the shooting "is within the bookends of 'stand your ground' and within the bookends of force being justified," later adding, "I'm not saying I agree with it, but I don't make that call."

The case has drawn national attention and renewed criticism of the 2005 law that continually gets blamed for fatal shootings throughout Florida.

The people who make the laws (the Florida Legislature) and the person who signs the bills into laws (the governor) have an outsized say in making any changes to stand your ground.

Gov. Rick Scott has been a big supporter. In 2016, lawmakers passed a law that shifted the burden of proof to prosecutors in cases where defendants claim they were justified in using deadly force without first retreating. Scott signed the bill into law.

What do the seven candidates who want to replace Scott think of the law now? The Tampa Bay Times sent all candidates the following questions:

  • Do you agree with Sheriff Gualtieri decision not to press charges? Does this shooting indicate changes are necessary with the SYG law?
  • Would you propose any changes or is the SYG law fine as it is? What changes, if any, would you propose?

Here is how the campaigns responded:


Andrew Gillum (via Geoff Burgan, campaign spokesman)

  1. Do you agree with Sheriff Gualtieri’s decision not to press charges?  “‘Stand Your Ground’ puts law enforcement officials in an untenable situation, and puts people at-risk of being gunned down in everyday life. This senseless tragedy highlights why Mayor Gillum has called for the repeal of this law.”
  2. Does this shooting indicate changes are necessary with the Stand Your Ground law? What changes, if any, would you propose to the Stand Your Ground law? “The Mayor’s said before that we need repeal ‘Stand Your Ground’ — a law that the NRA has pushed around the country. The recent change to the law that would move the burden from defense attorneys to prosecutors forces law enforcement to simply take the word of someone who has shot another person in self-defense.”

Gwen Graham

"All of us agree with the right to self-defense, but I have great concerns about whether the Stand Your Ground Law is applied fairly and if it actually encourages more confrontations. After the death of Trayvon Martin, we should have examined how to reform the law and protect more Floridians — but instead, the Legislature actually expanded the law. Sadly in Pinellas County, again we've seen the consequences of this ill-conceived policy — someone else is dead because someone chose confrontation when there were other options.

"As Governor, I will lead an effort to reform the law to ensure people who are legitimately defending themselves can do so, without creating a legal loophole for criminal behavior. I will also create a task force of prosecutors and civil rights leaders to take a look at every Stand Your Ground case to ensure that the law isn't allowing criminals to slip through the cracks.

"This must also be part of a larger conversation on common sense gun safety. As governor, I will implement universal background checks, ban military-style assault weapons and ensure domestic abusers can't obtain guns in order to stop the daily violence that plagues communities across our state."

Jeff Greene

"I would be remiss to make a conclusion without all the facts in this specific instance, but Florida's Stand Your Ground laws urgently need revision. They give people a 'shoot first, think later' mentality that has been used disproportionately to defend white-on-black-and-brown crime. This is a tragedy for the McGlockton family."

Chris King

"There's no question that we need to take a hard look at the law. I fear it encourages Floridians to make subjective judgments, shooting first and asking questions later. 'Stand your ground' should be reformed to fit within American constitutional and legal traditions and restore an individual's duty to retreat."

Philip Levine

  1. Do you agree with Sheriff Gualtieri’s decision not to press charges?
    “When a shove leads to someone being shot dead and law enforcement can’t even arrest the shooter—something is very wrong with our gun laws. I’m in favor of self-defense, not a license to kill—unfortunately, that is what ‘Stand Your Ground’ has become.”
  2. Does this shooting indicate changes are necessary with the Stand Your Ground law? “Again, I understand why Floridians believe self-defense laws should be in place, but ‘Stand Your Ground’ has become nothing more than a license to kill.”
  3. What changes, if any, would you propose to the Stand Your Ground law? “The ‘Stand Your Ground law as it’s being interpreted today is the NRA’s most dangerous piece of legislation they have passed. This is why we must repeal it and begin from a new starting point when it comes to having real self-defense laws on the books.”

Adam Putnam

"I stand with our law enforcement. Law enforcement does just that, enforces the laws passed by the Legislature. Sheriff Gualtieri and all our county sheriffs are faced with tough situations every day and must make decisions within the bookends of the law. The case has been forwarded to the State Attorney's office for final review."

Via Putnam campaign spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice: "Adam Putnam supports Stand Your Ground and believes Floridians have the right to defend themselves, their families and their properties when they are threatened. The specifics of this case are still being reviewed."

Ron DeSantis

Did not respond

RELATED COVERAGE: Florida Attorney General candidates react: 'Stand your ground law should be repealed'