Sen. Don Gaetz & Rep. Matt Gaetz op-ed: Standing up for “Stand Your Ground”

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The following is a guest post from Senator Don Gaetz and Rep. Matt Gaetz.

The shooting death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Thankfully, our Constitution leaves it to a jury of twelve citizens, not a gaggle of cable news demagogues, to decide whether a crime was committed and, if so, who committed it. After all, our system of justice exists to resolve the tough cases – not just the easy ones.

While motions are filed and trial dates are negotiated in the prosecution of George Zimmerman, the media’s obsession has shifted to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Riding the extreme rhetoric of Al Sharpton and encouraged by the “concerns” of Attorney General Eric Holder, anti-gun groups have already declared that law guilty of murder and sentenced it for repeal by the state legislature.

As two legislators who will vote on the issue, we want Northwest Floridians to know where we stand as we approach what is sure to be a well-orchestrated, well-financed attack on the Second Amendment.

Assuredly, there are very few laws on the books so pure they can’t be improved. In fact, much of our effort in Tallahassee has been to repeal bad, unnecessary, burdensome laws. But it wasn’t the fault of Chapter 776.012, Florida Statutes, that Trayvon Martin is dead. If Zimmerman claims a “Stand Your Ground” defense, that still doesn’t make the law wrong. Claims are made in court every day. The court, not the media talking heads, decides if those claims are valid.

Without question, the Legislature should stand its ground and defend good law in the face of self-serving, over-hyped rhetoric from the far left.

In 2005 when “Stand Your Ground” was enacted, Florida was one of only a few states that required a victim to run rather than stand his or her ground when attacked by a criminal while using deadly force. Before “Stand Your Ground,” Florida law favored the attacker.

Consider an elderly woman in a dimly lit parking lot or a college girl walking to her dorm at night. If either was attacked, her duty was to turn her back and try to flee, probably be overcome and raped or killed. Prior to “Stand Your Ground,” that victim didn’t have the choice to defend herself, to meet force with force.

Calls to repeal “Stand Your Ground” are anti-woman. Imposing a duty-to-flee places the safety of the rapist above a woman’s own life. In fact, until “Stand Your Ground” was passed, criminals were suing victims because victims, in protecting themselves, were allegedly using excessive force against the criminals.

“Stand Your Ground” simply says, if you have a right to be somewhere and if you’re not breaking the law, you may defend yourself to prevent imminent death or bodily harm. You don’t have an obligation to do so. You have the right.

Those who use every tragedy as an excuse to water down our right to keep and bear arms are already exploiting Trayvon Martin’s death for their own purposes. In the legislative debate that is sure to come, we will remind them that “Stand Your Ground” is not a right-wing over-reaction. It was passed by a bi-partisan majority of the Florida Legislature. We will remind them that Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, while a state senator, was one of the sponsors.

Most important, we will remind the critics and the cynics why this law is necessary, who it protects, and, if it were repealed, whose side the Legislature would be taking in that dimly-lit parking lot or that darkened college dormitory.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.