Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law has been a widely discussed, even protested law–especially so after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges in July for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
On Thursday, the state’s Republican-controlled House decided with an 11-2 vote to keep the law intact. Before the vote, the opponents of the law had a five-hour hearing on the state’s gun laws.
But in the end, the Florida House Criminal Justice Committee voted unanimously against the bill to repeal the law stating that it had nothing to do with race and everything to do with allowing people to protect themselves outside their homes.
"If you look at the history of America and especially the rural communities, go to the expansion, when they went out west, when they had Indians or bandidos or whoever come out and attack their homesteads, they stood and defended their homes," said Rep. Jimmie Smith, (R) Inverness. "Once again, this is core to our American way of life."
The eight-year-old law allows the use of deadly force if someone believes their life is in jeopardy outside of their home.
The move by the House was unusual since the Legislature doesn’t often spend time on legislation that has little chance of passage.
But Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford agreed to have a hearing on the self-defense law following protests that occurred this summer at the Capitol. A group of young people upset with the acquittal of George Zimmerman in Martin’s death spent weeks demanding that Gov. Rick Scott call a special session to repeal the law.
"The law that we're speaking about is based solely on fear, on prejudice, and on hate," said 'Dream Defenders' member Phillip Agnew.
They want lawmakers to take up a bi-partisan compromise being looked at in the Senate that would require a full investigation for any "Stand Your Ground" defense. That bill would also have to be approved by the Committee in the House and the chairman said he won't allow Stand Your Ground to be changed by even 'one comma.'
The compromise also would call for a ban of neighborhood watch volunteers from pursuing suspected criminals.