Trayvon Martin's mom asks people to voice opposition to stand-your-ground laws
Critics say the law provides too wide a definition of self-defense and encourages violence
Proponents argue the law allows people to protect themselves and discourages violent crime
Such laws have been adopted in more than 20 states
Sunday marks the first Mother’s Day that Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, will be without her son.
She reminds people of her loss in a video message released Friday and asks them to voice opposition to Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, and similar laws adopted in more than 20 states.
“Nobody can bring our children back,” she said, calling on supporters to ask their respective governors to re-examine laws that set the terms of self-defense and the use of deadly force.
“But it would bring us comfort if we can help spare other mothers the pain we will feel on mother’s day and every day for the rest of our lives.”
Martin, 17, was shot to death as he was walking home from a convenience store in Sanford, Florida. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, has said he shot Martin in self-defense.
While details of the February 26 shooting are murky, the case has since sparked outcry and thrust issues of race and gun control into the national dialogue.
Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows a person to use deadly force when they feel a reasonable threat of death or serious injury, is at the heart of the debate.
Passed in 2005, the law removes the “duty to retreat” outside the home, a longstanding principle that says a person has to first try to defuse the situation and retreat before using deadly force.
That right had traditionally not extended outside the home, though stand-your-ground laws have since been modified with different requirements depending on the state.
“What’s different in Florida is that Florida elevates the right of self-defense and almost puts it on a pedestal,” creating hesitation for an arrest if authorities aren’t confident they can disprove self-defense at an initial immunity hearing, said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan.
The local police decision not to bring charges against Zimmerman led to accusations that it may have been racially motivated. A month later, the Justice Department opened an investigation into the case.
Meanwhile, critics of the Florida law say it provides too wide a definition of self-defense and encourages violence.
Its proponents argue that the law allows people to better protect themselves and discourages violent crime.
A task force has since been set up to examine the controversial law after the Martin shooting.
It is expected to review the full scope of Florida laws governing residents’ use of deadly force, not just the issues raised by Martin’s death.