Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, (@Jenna_Buzzacco)
A measure meant to clarify Florida’s “stand your ground” law cleared a Senate committee Monday.
The Senate’s criminal justice committee unanimously approved a proposal – Senate Bill 130 and Senate Bill 122, which were combined earlier this year – that tweaks the state’s controversial self-defense law.
The proposal – sponsored Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale – calls on local law enforcement to create reasonable guidelines for the operation of neighborhood watch programs.
Those guidelines, according to an amended version of the bill approved Monday, must include language which prohibits someone who is on patrol for their neighborhood watch from “confronting or attempting to apprehend” someone suspected of unlawful activity.
The proposal comes in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer at the time.
The bill also allows local law enforcement to investigate even when the ‘stand your ground’ defense is being used, clarifies immunity and who can use the defense.
“There’s things in here I really like. There’s things in here I don’t like,” said Smith. “But the art of getting something done is compromise.”
Simmons helped draft the state’s “stand your ground law” in 2005, however on Monday he said he knows “there are clarifications that can be made.”
Smith said he did not vote for the law when he was in the House.
While the Senate proposal is making some progress, there’s been little movement in the House. A comparable House bill, House Bill 33 sponsored by Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, has been referred to four committees.
In November, the House criminal justice subcommittee rejected a proposal to repeal the law altogether. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, the committee’s chairman, has said he would oppose changes to the law.
“I believe that there will be a real opportunity for the House to move forward,” said Simmons. “I have had indications from members of the House that if we can get the consensus over here that they’ll potentially take it up.”
The Senate bill now heads to the community affairs committee for a vote.