by Eleanor Roy
The Florida Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection heard commentary this afternoon at the Northland Church from both Florida lawmakers and citizens alike at its first meeting to discuss the role of Florida's Shoot First Law. The law, which is what Trayvon Martin's shooter is basing his defense on, is intended to protect people who shoot others in acts of self-defense, but has come under fire since the teen's death in February.
Most speakers pleaded with the task force to at least amend the law, if not abolish it completely. Allie Braswell, Chief Executive Officer for the Central Florida Urban League, said that it is the ambiguity in applying the law that makes it dangerous. "Reform it at the very least," he said.
Trayvon's parents, accompanied by their attorney, Benjamin Crump, also spoke to the task force, saying that they aren't "against the second amendment," but that the law needs to be looked at again. Martin's father, Tracy, added that the law encouraged vigilantes like George Zimmerman to take action on their own. "Please amend it, please review it," Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, said.
There was a fair number of people who spoke on behalf of keeping the law as it stands, though. John Dickinson of Orlando told the task force he wants to keep the law totally unamended. Ronald Vogt of Altamonte Springs said that even though the police force does a great job in Florida, "they can't be everywhere." He said it's laws like this that allow for people to protect themselves from danger without fear of being punished, and amending the Stand Your Ground law would jeopardize people's safety.
The Second Chance on Shoot First campaign hopes to change the law, though. According to the campaign's director, Ginny Simmons, 375,000 petitions have already been signed across the nation in favor of changing or repealing the law. Her group also has mobilized thousands of volunteers in states with similar laws.