Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) is calling for repeal of her state’s “stand your ground” law following the deadly shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin last month.
“Trayvon Martin’s death is a tragedy and that has rightly spurred a national conversation and calls to action,” Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement posted on her website Friday and circulated on Twitter Saturday.
The shooting of Martin has increased scrutiny of the 2005 Florida statute and similar laws in other states.
The Florida law allows a person attacked in a place where they have a “right to be” the license to “stand his or her ground” and use deadly force, rather than retreat, if they “reasonably” believe it's necessary to prevent death or serious harm.
Roughly 20 states have some version of stand your ground laws on the books.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), according to The Associated Press, said the stand your ground law that he signed should not apply in the Martin case. “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back,” he said, according to AP.
Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, self-identified volunteer neighborhood watchman, on February 26 in Sanford, Fla., a community near Orlando. Zimmerman told police he was acting in self-defense. Martin was carrying only Skittles candies and a can of iced tea when he was shot.
Just prior to the shooting, Zimmerman called 911 to report what he said was suspicious behavior by Martin. Zimmerman then began to follow Martin, despite the emergency dispatcher telling him not to do so.
Zimmerman’s lawyer, Craig Sonner, said the stand your ground law does not apply in this case.
“This is self-defense, and that's been around for forever — that you have a right to defend yourself. So the next issue (that) is going to come up is, was he justified in using the amount of force he did?” he said, according to CNN.
The case and lack of an arrest of Zimmerman has generated protests and intense media focus.
The Justice Department has opened an investigation and President Obama spoke about the case in personal terms Friday, noting “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
Wasserman Schultz, in her statement, said she is “pleased that the Department of Justice is looking into this incident and that a special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate this case.”
“I am hopeful that federal, state and local coordination will ensure a complete and thorough investigation. My thoughts and deepest sympathy are with Trayvon Martin’s family and friends during this difficult time,” she said.