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Stand Your Ground law: Florida review panel to draw wide scrutiny

Florida's review of its controversial Stand Your Ground law began Tuesday. Spurred by the Trayvon Martin shooting, it is the first comprehensive look at the effect of such laws, which 24 other states have copied. 

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Led by Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, a black Republican who is a life-time member of both the NAACP and the NRA, a 19-member panel assembled by Gov. Rick Scott (R) after the Trayvon Martin shooting sat down for the first time Tuesday to examine the future of the state's landmark self-defense law.

Enacted in 2005, the Stand Your Ground law, which expanded the “no duty to retreat” doctrine to public areas, became a touchstone for those who sought to extend gun rights and self-defense in US society, and the Trayvon Martin case has highlighted how those trends intersect with perceptions of young black men. Critics say the law has become a license for hate-motivated criminals to kill, while proponents credit it with saving lives and reducing the murder rate.

The law has been germane to the Trayvon Martin case, where a neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman said he acted in self defense when shooting 17-year-old Trayvon. Local police, citing Florida's Stand Your Ground law, didn’t charge the part-white, part-Hispanic Mr. Zimmerman for shooting the unarmed black youth. The case inflamed racial tensions, and prosecutors, who now say Zimmerman “profiled” Trayvon, charged him with second-degree murder on April 20.

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