MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – As some state lawmakers are calling for a re-thinking of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to defend themselves from danger without the need to first try to get away, an analysis of state data shows deaths due to self defense are up over 200 percent since the law took effect.
The shooting death of Trayvon Martin by an armed, self-appointed Central Florida crime watch volunteer who claimed he shot in self defense has sparked a national debate about Florida’s law, technically known as the Castle doctrine.
Until 2005, it was generally considered self defense if someone tried to get into your home or invade your property, so long as you could show deadly force was the last resort. In 2005, the “Stand your Ground” law removed the need to retreat before using force, even in public.
That’s the justification George Zimmerman used when he shot and killed Miami Gardens teen Treyvon Martin, who was returning to his father’s fiance’s house from a convenience store visit when Zimmerman spotted him and deemed him suspicious. Before the police he called arrived, he claims Martin attacked him and he shot in fear for his life.
Police accepted his story, and let him go, sparking national outrage. Zimmerman remains free.
That kind of thing is happening a lot, according to FDLE statistics obtained by CBS4′s David Sutta.
According to state crime stats, Florida averaged 12 “justifiable homicide” deaths a year from 2000-2004. After “Stand your Ground” was passed in 2005, the number of “justifiable” deaths has almost tripled to an average of 35 a year, an increase of 283% from 2005-2010.
“The Legislature needs to take a look at Stand Your Ground,” Florida Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald, “This is a perfect case of where it goes awry. This could only be the beginning of more problems down the road. It has unintended consequences.”
“When the Legislature passed this in 2005, I don’t think they planned for people who would go out and become vigilantes or be like some weird Batman who would go out and kill little kids like Trayvon.”
Gov. Rick Scott, speaking with reporters following a Cabinet meeting, agreed, though without committing to supporting any particular legislation. “When you see any violence it’s always positive to … go back and look at existing law and see the impact and the consequences of it,” Scott said.
“If there’s something that we need to adjust I’m hopeful that the Legislature would be interested in taking that up.”