Is Stand Your Ground law a license to kill? Black legislators who voted in 2005 re-think their position

caines | 3/29/2012, 5:41 a.m.

Is hindsight really 20-20?

When Floridas Castle Doctrine law was passed in 2005, it was said that the law was intended to give rights back to law-abiding citizens, removing the duty to retreat if one was attacked in places like their home or their automobile. It further prohibited criminals and their families from suing victims for injuring or killing the criminals who had attacked them. But since its inception, the number of justifiable homicides, according to the FDLE [Florida Department of Law Enforcement], have risen significantly. In 2004, 8 felons were killed by private citizens the number of deaths rose to 18 in 2005. But by 2009, 45 people had been killed at the hands of private citizens. Officials are quick to point out that no direct correlation can be made to the now highly-contested Stand Your Ground law [the popular name for the Castle Doctrine, SB 436]. Even with the increased number of killings in Florida, Blacks who were members of the State Senate and House and voted on the bill in 2005 say that it was never intended to be used to protect people like George Zimmerman, the murderer of Trayvon Martin.

A look back at Miami in 2005

According to State Senator Larcenia Bullard, in 2005, citizens of Miami were disheartened by the manner in which law enforcement was handling home invasions [break-ins] and people who were being attacked in their car. My office had become bombarded with complaints and people were fed up, said Bullard, 64. People were being attacked on roadsides, on the turnpikes and even in gas stations. The perpetrators were not being prosecuted and citizens turned to their elected officials for help. Thats why I supported the bill. I voted for the bill so people could legally protect themselves in their homes and in their cars, said State Senator Gary Siplin, 57. There was one case of a woman in Texas who called 911 because someone was breaking into her home and she wanted to know what she should do. The operator told her to protect herself and her infant child she shot the intruder. Miami was facing countless similar situations and our people needed to be able to legally defend themselves. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, 69, was a member of the State Senate in 2005. She says that her own home had been broken into three times in a two-month period and three cars were stolen from her driveway during the time that the bill was being considered. We heard plenty of riveting testimony when the Criminal Justice Committee of the Florida Senate was considering what has come to be known as the Stand Your Ground law, she said. State Senator Evelyn Lynn, then 77 and white, was robbed at gunpoint while she was in her bedroom and alone. Based on the law at the time, she would have had to retreat before she could use deadly force to protect herself. She moved to a new home and was robbed again one year later. The bill passed unanimously in the State Senate but none of us anticipated that it would be used to protect the murderer of an unarmed child who was being racially profiled.