TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law is a good law and should not be overturned, according to the final report from Gov. Rick Scott's Citizen Safety Task Force.
The group first convened in May 2012 following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The suspect who shot the 17-year-old boy is trying to use the Stand Your Ground law to defend himself.
The governor's task force held seven meetings across Florida to listen to people's opinions about the law, as well as testimony from experts.
The group was led by Lt. Gov Jennifer Carroll. She rejected criticism that the group was stacked with people who favored the Stand Your Ground law.
Their report concludes people have a right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack.
Recommendations include: stricter rules for neighborhood watch groups, more training for police and prosecutors to make sure the law is applied fairly and a review of Florida's 10-20-Life law.
Lt. Gov. Carroll declined to talk to us about the report on camera.
Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith, who assembled his own task force to study the law, said he's not surprised by Carroll's report.
"It's what I expected. When you put a task force together of people who wrote the bill and full of people who support Stand Your Ground, I knew the task force wouldn't come up with anything earth-shattering in their final report."
Smith said the task force had supporters of the Stand Your Ground law so they did not focus on misuses of the law.
"From Miami, people were chasing someone down the street and stabbing them to death, to Tampa where people are getting shot on playgrounds, all the way to Tallahassee where gangs are using Stand Your Ground as they shoot up the streets of Tallahassee. Anyone who looked at that data realistically would have come out with stronger recommendations, as my task force did, to revisit Stand Your Ground."
Smith argues the misuse of the Stand Your Ground law helps perpetuate a culture of violence. His task force concluded the measure is too often used by criminals as a defense for their crimes. The group recommended having Stand Your Ground cases presented to a grand jury and tracking self-defense claims in Florida.
Smith expects the debate over Florida's Stand Your Ground law to continue in the spring legislative session starting next month.
"I think a bill is being filed by Sen. Simmons, which has some of the things that his task force came up with, which are minimal things, but at least that gets the discussion going. You'll see amendments by myself and others to really make some changes to this bill to, again, protect people's rights but try to stifle this culture of violence."
First Coast News