Florida residents forced to defend themselves got a new measure of protection on Friday.
Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that emphasizes that those who protect themselves with deadly force, commonly known as the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, are innocent until proven guilty.
The new law requires prosecutors to prove that a defendant was not acting in self defense, rather than the previous standard where the defendant had to prove they used violence to defend themselves, Sunshine State News reported.
The bill was passed by Republicans in the states Congress along party lines. It followed a decision by the Florida Supreme Court that said defendants had to prove they acted in self defense.
Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ rule gained national attention in 2014 when neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman shot and killed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
Responses to the new law varied.
“When prosecutors and judges use procedures to circumvent the rights of law-abiding people and the will of the Legislature, it cannot be tolerated,” former National Rifle Association President Marion Hammer said. “Procedures do not have the weight of law and the Legislature and the Governor have erased their abusive procedures in self-defense cases and have legislatively made sure these rights are reinstated.”
Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis was killed by a man who used the ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense, said the law will put people in danger.
“Expanding Stand Your Ground would send a clear message to communities of color in Florida – that we are not welcome or safe in this state,” she said.
“This new law will only encourage more violence, making it easier for hate-motivated gun criminals to avoid prosecution,” she added. “More than 8,000 gun-related hate crimes take place in our country every year, and now with this already deadly law expanded, I fear even more violence for Florida’s marginalized communities. The citizens of Florida deserve better than someone who kowtows to the gun lobby.”
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