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Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Weatherford's reasonable stance on "stand your ground"

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford offers a reasonable perspective to the volatile "stand your ground" issue. We hope other lawmakers will be as sensible when addressing the controversy. Weatherford remains a strong supporter of the law, but he's bothered by law enforcement's complaints that it sometimes protects people who start conflicts and then use deadly force to end them. The Pasco Republican is inclined to believe the law is being misapplied by some state attorneys and judges because it specifies it does not protect illegal activity.
Still, he tells us that he is open to revising the legislation, but that "law enforcement needs to be uniform" about what is needed. That's a reasonable request, and one to which sheriffs, police chiefs, prosecutors and judges should respond. We have heard enough complaints about the law protecting aggressors, sometimes even gang members, to believe lawmakers should clarify the legislation when they meet in session next year. Any attention to the "stand your ground" law now, when it is has become the focus of protests against the racially charged George Zimmerman case, surely would be unproductive. But next year lawmakers may be better able to review the matter calmly, basing any changes on facts, not emotions. The "stand your ground" concept, which frees an individual of the obligation to retreat before using deadly force, is sound. There are circumstances where retreat may endanger the innocent party. One shouldn't be required to retreat from someone brandishing a knife or making threats to one's family. But other encounters - barroom fights, road rage incidents, neighborhood arguments - are not always clear cut. The sanction against illegal activity does not always cover the inappropriate behavior that may unnecessarily cause a deadly encounter. How about an individual who threatens someone and then shoots him when he approaches? Or someone who picks a fight then pulls out a gun when getting the worst of it? As we've written before, lawmakers should avoid the passion of the current controversy, listen to officers, prosecutors and judges and determine whether clarification is needed. Despite his support for the law, Weatherford is open to changing - not eliminating - "stand your ground" if criminal justice officials agree there is a problem. Other state lawmakers should be as open-minded if law enforcement meets that challenge.
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