Florida state Rep. Alan Williams (D) stated on Sunday that he plans to continue efforts to repeal the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The self-defense law gained became highly contested after the shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012 by George Zimmerman, who was subsequently found not guilty by a Florida jury.
“The tragedy of the Trayvon Martin case reflects that here in Florida, gun violence has claimed too many lives. While I am disappointed with the verdict, we must all respect it and our thoughts and prayers must remain with the Martin family,” said Williams in a statement on Sunday. “Trayvon Benjamin Martin’s tragic death shows us that by remaining focused on the goal of preventing these incidents of violence, we as lawmakers must work to prevent future tragedies…that can have devastating consequences for families, our community and the citizens of the state of Florida.”
“Stand Your Ground” allows individuals to use force when there is reasonable belief that they are victims of an unlawful threat. Williams, who had previously advocated for the law’s repeal even before the Trayvon Martin shooting, argued that the law’s language is too vague and that, in the Martin case, “law enforcement wasn’t able to apply the law because they didn’t understand the law.” Williams has stated his intent to submit two bills about the contested law in the state’s next legislative session: one that would repeal the law and one that would amend its language.
Of particular concern, especially after the highly-publicized George Zimmerman trial, is the racial dimension of the law’s application. A report by the Center for Media and Democracy suggests that numerous studies show that the application of “Stand Your Ground” varies according to the racial backgrounds of the victim and the perpetrator.