The Dream Defenders camped out in the Florida state Capitol made the New York Times today, in a sign that their demand for changes in the Stand Your Ground law is not fading away. The activists have been sleeping in the Capitol since July 16, three days after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
They have gotten as far as a meeting with Governor Rick Scott and the scheduling of a committee hearing on Stand Your Ground, to be chaired by a Republican lawmaker who says he does not want to change “one damn comma” of the law. Representative Matt Gaetz tells the NYT that the Dream Defenders are protesting for the sake of protesting, and he says, they don’t know much:
“I think you have protesters in the Capitol today who are protesting without a whole lot of knowledge about the fact patterns associated with Stand Your Ground.”
But the Dream Defenders are not the only ones in Florida calling for change. Just last week, I bumped into an interview with Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs, a Democrat from the generally Republican Panhandle. First elected in 1984, Meggs began prosecuting cases in Florida long before the Stand Your Ground was created. Since then, he has called it the “dumbest law ever put on the books.” Last month, he talked to Capital Scoop, of the Tallahassee Democrat, and added this:
What the legislature did with the Stand Your Ground law is they solved a problem that we didn’t have and created some problems we don’t need. We were not having any problems with self-defense issues prior to the enactment of this Stand Your Ground law…
We were just not having a problem. We just were not having a problem.
If you listen to the full interview, you’ll hear a reference to a case from 2008. In that case, a 15-year-old kid shot first, then was killed by two men with an AK-47. “The dead person is buried and the survivor of the gunfight is immune from prosecution,” Meggs says. I don’t know whether his 30 years of experience qualifies him in Florida politics for having a lot of knowledge about the fact patters, but that does seem to be what Meggs sees.