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Florida Governor Appoints Task Force To Review 'Stand Your Ground' Law

Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed a task force on Thursday charged with reviewing the state's gun laws, including the so-called "stand your ground law," that came into controversial focus after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

As we've explained, the law, passed in 2005, got "rid of the English Law concept of 'duty to retreat' from a situation that is dangerous outside your home." The law will likely play a central role in the case against George Zimmerman, the man charged with killing Martin.

The Miami Herald reports that the governor's task force includes law enforcement officials, legal experts and politicians, including the representative who sponsored the law. The governor also appointed his lieutenant, Jennifer Carroll, as the 17-member panel's leader.

The New York Times adds:

"'We are not walking into this with any preconceived notions,' said Governor Scott, a Republican, who announced in March that he would appoint a panel to address concerns raised over how the criminal justice system responded to Mr. Martin's killing. He said part of the task force's job would be to examine data that has been gathered since the Stand Your Ground law was enacted in 2005.

"It was Governor Scott who appointed Angela B. Corey as special prosecutor to handle the Martin case after Seminole County's state attorney stepped aside.

"The Stand Your Ground law was cited as a factor in the decision by the Sanford, Fla., police to not immediately arrest George Zimmerman, 28, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Mr. Martin as he walked home from a convenience store through a gated community. Mr. Zimmerman told police that he shot Mr. Martin, who was unarmed, in self-defense."

Back in 2010, The Tampa Bay Times looked at the law and found that reports of "justifiable homicides tripled after the law went into effect."

The Tallahassee Democrat reports the group is set to meet for the first time on May 1.

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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  • Even before Trayvon Martin's shooting, Florida's "stand your ground" law was controversial. Prosecutors in the state fought the law's passage. Since the law's introduction, cases ruled justifiable homicides have tripled. The Martin shooting is leading to calls to re-examine the law in Florida.
  • The law, passed in 2005, got rid of the English Law concept of "duty to retreat" from a dangerous situation. Instead, a person can hold his ground and meet force with force — deadly if they feel is necessary.
  • At the heart of the controversial law is this question: What constitutes provocation? Since the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin made law the subject of national debate, one of the legislators who helped write it, Rep. Dennis Baxley, has been adamant in his belief that the law simply doesn't apply in this case.
  • The murder of Trayvon Martin has shone a spotlight on Florida's law that authorizes the use of deadly force in self-defense. The law has been widely cited as the reason why shooter George Zimmerman has not been arrested. Marion Hammer is one of the most powerful lobbyists in Florida, and has helped to make the law a reality in the state.