The task force reviewing Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law met for the sixth time on Tuesday and heard presentations in defense of the law from representatives of several second-amendment organizations.
Previous meetings of the state's Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, reviewing the law in the wake of the Feb. 26 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, featured presentations and comments from law-enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders, college professors and private citizens, including Trayvon's parents.
Supporters say the law empowers citizens to protect themselves. Critics contend it encourages a "shoot-first" mentality.
"'Stand your ground' has become a loaded phrase in Florida since the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman incident," said Eric Friday of Florida Carry Inc. He attributed outcry about the law to "hyperbole and hysteria."
Friday argued the law, which grants immunity from prosecution when deadly force is used in response to a reasonable fear of serious injury or death, has been misapplied, but not in the way critics contend. He said courts have wrongly placed the burden on victims to show "stand your ground" applies.
"We're going to say, 'Mr. Citizen, Mrs. Citizen, you may have acted in self defense, but you're going to have to prove it,' " he said, adding "the courts have turned this immunity on its head."
Marion Hammer, representing the National Rifle Association, argued that the law "was about restoring the right of self defense." She acknowledged criminals may seek to abuse the law, but said that shouldn't limit the rights of the law-abiding.
"Criminals routinely claim … all manner of excuses," she said. "Just because they claim it doesn't mean that people will be fooled by it."
Tuesday's meeting was the task force's last. It is expected to issue recommendations before the next legislative session.
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