The one-year anniversary of the shooting of 17-year-old Florida teen Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was marked on Tuesday, Feb. 26, with the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law still firmly in place.
The fatal shooting occurred last year in Sanford, Fla., where Zimmerman, while on watch, followed the teenager because he seemed suspicious, as the volunteer told police later on. A confrontation followed, which resulted in Zimmerman pulling out his gun and shooting Martin dead.
The teenagers' parents blamed Zimmerman for racially targeting their son, who was black, and murdering him in cold blood. But the volunteer's defense have provided evidence of the night of the attack backing up Zimmerman's claims that he was first assaulted by Martin and left with a bloodied nose and battered head. The 28-year-old watchman argued that he shot the teenager to save his life under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows the use of lethal force in case of serious threat.
Petitions around the country were started to try and repeal this law, but Yahoo News noted that last Friday, the Florida task force appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott released its final recommendations on the law shooting down calls for it to be repealed, though they urged for better training and education for law enforcement officers.
Florida is not the only state with such a law – it exists in 20 states under various forms. The difference between "stand your ground" laws and conventional laws that allow for the use of a firearm in case an intruder breaks into a home is that the former covers defense in all public places.
"Trayvon Martin really stalled the move for more permissive gun laws," commented Adam Winkler, a constitutional law expert at UCLA. "Newtown ended it," he added, referring to the Dec. 14 mass shooting of 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Allie L. Braswell, president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League, expressed his disappointment in the news that the Florida law will stand.
"This law gives people more leeway than I had on the battlefield as a United States Marine," Braswell, a veteran of the Gulf War, said. "When I was engaged in Iraq ... we could not fire until fired upon."
Braswell concluded that it is unlikely efforts to repeal the law will be restarted any time soon.
"I think it's lost some of its support, unfortunately," the Central Florida Urban League said.
George Zimmerman, who is standing trial over the case, will find out whether he can use the "stand your ground" law to be declared immune from prosecution at a special hearing on April 22.