In reaction to a story by the Tampa Bay Times, state lawmakers are trying to restrict media access to court records in “stand your ground” cases. The Tampa Bay Times reviewed 200 cases where the “stand your ground” law was invoked as a defense. The results showed a disproportionate amount of white shooters and black victims, with over 70 percent of the shooters going free. In the vast majority of the cases, the victim was unarmed and challenged by the shooter. These cases prove that there is something wrong with the “stand your ground” law, and that it needs to be repealed.
The story by the newspaper was embarrassing to the state of Florida and proved that people have been getting away with cold-blooded murder. However, powerful Republican state Representative Matt Gaetz wants to make sure an article like the one featured in the Tampa Bay Times with those kinds of facts can’t be written again.
Rep. Gaetz and the National Rifle Association apparently feel that once you shoot a person under the “stand your ground” defense and you prevail in court, your court records and charges should be private. The person would be allowed to “apply for a certificate of eligibility to expunge the associated criminal history record.” So, in effect, killing under “stand your ground” gives you a get out of jail free card. Passing this new piece of legislation would prevent the public, including the media, from reviewing evidence of “stand your ground” killings in the state. Gaetz and the NRA claim it’s in order to protect the privacy of the person involved in the shooting. Gaetz strongly disagrees that there is anything wrong with “stand your ground” as it is currently written.
Last fall, when public attention and opinion turned against the law, Gaetz was the chair of the special state of Florida hearings on the law. Before the hearings even began, he stated that he did not “support changing one damn comma of the ‘stand your ground’ law,” and said that changes to the law are “reactionary and dangerous” and anyone who disagrees is “uninformed.”