Florida’s governor said he will not seek to roll back his state’s controversial gun laws, following the acquittal of a volunteer watchman in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin.
Governor Rick Scott, who met Thursday with protesters occupying the state Capitol building, said in a statement that he opposes efforts to repeal Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and other measures allowing residents to use lethal force to defend themselves.
Scott rebuffed the request of demonstrators asking that he work to overturn the laws in Florida’s legislature.
“Tonight, the protesters again asked that I call a special session of the legislature to repeal Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law,” Scott said in a statement late Thursday.
“I told them that I agree with the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, which concurred with the law,” Scott said.
“I also reminded them of their right to share their views with their state legislators and let them know their opinions on the law,” Scott said.
He also called for a “statewide day of prayer for unity” to be held this Sunday.
“We have a great state with wonderful, resilient people that rise to meet any challenge. While emotions run high, it is even more important that we join together to strengthen and support one another,” Scott said.
“Stand Your Ground” laws are in place in more than two dozen US states.
Florida in 2005 was the first US state to enact a “Stand Your Ground” law, which broadened the concept of self-defense, stating that a gun owner does not have an obligation to retreat or de-escalate a standoff before pulling the trigger.
The law in Florida law states that: “a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.”
Although the law not invoked in the second-degree-murder trial that ended with Zimmerman’s acquittal, his legal team maintained during the trial that he was defending himself when he shot Martin, 17, during an altercation in February 2012.
Gun ownership is extremely popular in Florida, where there are 1.1 million active holders of permits to carry concealed weapons — more than any other US state.
US Attorney General Eric Holder this week called for the laws to be overturned in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal.
Civil rights leaders vowed to use Florida as a testing ground to challenge and change the “stand your ground” laws, which they feel disproportionately impact African Americans and people of color who they fear will become victims of racial profiling by those who invoke the laws.