Democrat to offer bill repealing 'Stand Your Ground' laws

The House Democrat who represents Trayvon Martin’s district will soon propose legislation repealing the nation's “Stand Your Ground” laws, which are under a microscope following the shooting death of the Florida teenager earlier this year.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said eliminating such laws might have prevented February’s fatal confrontation between the 17-year-old Martin, an unarmed African-American, and George Zimmerman, 28, an Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer carrying a 9mm handgun.

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Zimmerman, who was arrested more than month after the shooting, says he acted in self-defense when Martin attacked him. His case will spin largely on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which permits the use of deadly force in certain cases of self-defense.

Wilson this week said the law threatens to enable “a horrendous crime.”

“The thought that George Zimmerman could get away with such a horrendous crime is a travesty of justice,” Wilson said Tuesday in a statement announcing her bill. “There are bills in other states known by different taglines that have the same unintended consequences as [Florida's] Stand Your Ground [law]. They should all be repealed.”

Wilson’s proposal — which she expects to introduce next week when the House returns from this week's recess — would discourage “Stand Your Ground” laws by withholding some federal transportation dollars from states that adopt them.

Wilson's bill has no chance of moving this year in the GOP-controlled House, but it will shine a brighter light on the nation's gun laws as a number of states are eyeing adoption of legislation similar to Florida's law.

Zimmerman began to follow Martin as the teenager was walking from a convenience store to the home of his father's fiancee in a gated Sanford, Fla., neighborhood.

What happened next is hotly debated, but after some kind of physical confrontation Zimmerman shot Martin once through the heart.

Zimmerman was questioned but not immediately arrested, leading to an outcry from Martin's family, black community leaders and some Democrats on Capitol Hill.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into the handling of the case, and in mid-April a special prosecutor appointed by the state of Florida charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder.

“Stand Your Ground” supporters tend to back Zimmerman, arguing that the laws are necessary to protect those who are merely protecting themselves. But opponents — including many Democrats — say they encourage violence and vigilantism.

A “Stand Your Ground” task force created by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) met for the first time on Tuesday. Critics of the law, including Martin’s parents, used the meeting as an opportunity to deliver a petition — signed, they said, by more than 370,000 people — urging state lawmakers to reform or repeal the law.

“I'm not saying to get rid of it, but please amend it, please review it,” said Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother, according to local reports. “This was a child, this was a kid that was shot in the heart.”