Trayvon Martin was just 10 years old when politicians in Florida passed legislation that, seven years later, is being blamed for letting his killer walk free.
Martin’s Feb. 26 death in a gated suburban neighborhood at the hands of a 28-year-old man is calling attention to Florida’s 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows the use of deadly force if a person feels threatened. Gunman George Zimmerman was pursuing Martin because he thought the 17-year-old African-American teenager was suspicious and told police he was acting in self defense, though Martin had only a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea on him when he was shot and killed a short distance from the home of his father’s girlfriend.
Florida was the first state in the country to pass such a bill, but they weren’t the last. And like many legislative trends, this one has its roots in the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Minutes documenting a 2005 meeting from an old ALEC website provided to TPM by the Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause show that Marion Hammer of the National Rifle Association (NRA) pitched model legislation to ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force. An old NRA update also documented the meeting. “Her talk was well-received, and the task force subsequently adopted the measure unanimously,” the NRA wrote in an Aug. 12, 2005 post on the NRA website.
Opponents of the legislation are pointing out how easily it could be abused.
“All you have to say is that you reasonably believed you were threatened, and the only person who can dispute that is the person you have just killed,” says Daniel Vice of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. But as this chart from Mother Jones illustrates, “Stand Your Ground” bills have already spread across the country.
Sponsors of Florida’s bill, meanwhile, are claiming it shouldn’t come into play in the Martin case.
“They got the goods on him. They need to prosecute whoever shot the kid,” former Sen. Durell Peaden told the Miami Herald. “He has no protection under my law.”