Florida's Speaker of the House announced on Friday that hearings will be held this fall on the state's infamous “Stand Your Ground” laws. The laws were largely unknown to people outside of the state before the Trayvon Martin case. But following the acquittal of 17-year-old Trayvon’s killer, George Zimmerman, the law became a rallying point for gun-control activists. One of the protesters' biggest demands: a thorough review of the decree itself—which allows the use of guns in self-defense.
"The announcement on Friday by Will Weatherford, the speaker of Florida's House of Representatives, marked the biggest concession yet by the state's Republican leaders to protesters' demands for a top-to-bottom review of the law, which allows people in fear of serious injury to use deadly force to defend themselves rather than retreat.
Since Zimmerman's acquittal on July 13, Martin's grieving parents, backed by African-American civic leaders, celebrities, students and political figures, including President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, have all said the Stand Your Ground law needs to be re-examined.
Weatherford, in an opinion column published in the Tampa Tribune, said he had asked Representative Matt Gaetz, a fellow Republican who chairs the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, to lead the hearings. Weatherford did not set a date for the hearings or say how long they would last.
"Across Florida, representatives are receiving calls, letters, visits and emails from constituents with diverse opinions on 'Stand Your Ground,'" Weatherford said. "Passions are high, but every person has the right to express their views on this matter of great importance."'
"It's a critical step," said Phillip Agnew, who heads a group of young demonstrators calling themselves the Dream Defenders who have staged a nearly month-long sit-in outside Governor Rick Scott's office in a bid to change the law. "We're excited about having an open debate," he told Reuters.