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Democrat’s bid for ‘stand your ground’ special session faces steep odds

Lawmakers can demand action, but it won't happen unless a lot of Republicans agree.
Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.
Published Jul. 30, 2018
Updated Jul. 30, 2018

A deadly parking lot shooting in Clearwater in a case involving Florida's "stand your ground" law continues to draw strong emotional reactions.

A Pinellas County legislator is now trying to mobilize support for a special session of the Legislature to rework the law. But recent history suggests that Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, is not likely to succeed.

"It is our duty to our constituents that we amend the framework of the implementation of the stand your ground statute," Rouson said in a letter to his colleagues.  "Every day that passes, we are letting down the citizens of Florida who are put at risk by the unintended consequences of this statute."

Markeis McGlockton, 28, was shot to death on July 19 in a dispute over a parking space, and the video of his encounter with assailant Michael Drejka has inspired passionate responses on all sides. The assailant was white. The victim was black.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Drejka's actions fell within the bounds of the self-defense law, which the Legislature, supported by the National Rifle Association, rewrote in 2017 to shift the burden of proof from the defendant to the state. Gov. Rick Scott signed the change into law.

By law, if 20 percent of the members of the Legislature support a special session, the Secretary of State must poll all members.

If three-fifths of the members of both houses agree, a special session will be convened.

That's extremely unlikely in an election year in the Legislature where the Republicans hold strong majorities in both chambers.

Democrats tried to use the same strategy in May to force a special session on school spending. But it didn't work.

But gun control is a very big issue in Florida this election year. One obvious goal of a call for a special session is for Democrats to force Republicans to go on the record in defending the current law, including Republicans who face tough re-election challenges, such as Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.

But Republicans know which of their members risk losing political favor by taking sides in the call for a special session, and they can direct enough lawmakers in safe seats to provide sufficient votes to defeat Rouson's proposal.

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