Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Opponents Of Florida’s 2005 ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law Predicted ‘Racially Motivated Killings’

By Judd Legum/Think Progress

SANFORD, FL — Nearly one month after shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman remains a free man. The Sanford Police maintain that Zimmerman’s conduct was legally justified under Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” legislation, enacted in 2005. The law eliminated the duty to avoid a confrontation and authorized the use of deadly force if there is a “reasonable belief” it is necessary to “prevent death or great bodily harm.”
Since the shooting on February 26, facts have emerged that suggest there may have been a racial element to Zimmerman’s violent conduct against a 17-year-old African-American. Zimmerman called the police to report Martin’s “suspicious” behavior, which he described as “just walking around looking about.” Zimmerman was a very frequent caller to 911, almost always reporting young black men.
Seven years ago, opponents of the “Stand Your Ground” legislation predicted it could lead to racially motivated killings. From Reuters, April 2005:
“For a House that talks about the culture of life it’s ironic that we would be devaluing life in this bill,” said Democratic state Rep. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach. “That’s exactly what we’re doing.” [...]
Critics say the measure could lead to racially motivated killings and promote deadly escalations of arguments.
“All this bill will do is sell more guns and possibly turn Florida into the OK Corral,” said Democratic state Rep. Irv Slosberg of Boca Raton. 
These objections, apparently, did not persuade Rep. Dennis Baxley, the bill’s chief sponsor and someone who hasn’t show a great deal of empathy for racial sensitivities in the past.
Baxley is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and has advocated for the production of a Florida license plate honoring “Confederate Heritage.” He also argued against removing a racial slur from the Florida state song.
Regarding his advocacy on behalf of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Baxley has said he is primarily concerned with preserving the state’s history. Speaking of his push for a Confederate license plate, Baxley said, “I hope it will be seen in the proper light. There has to be something done to preserve history, or there won’t be any history left to preserve.” He also noted that he sponsored legislation to create a license plate honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
After Trayvon Martin’s death, Baxley has continued to adamantly defend the law.
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