The fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin near Orlando ignited a nationwide debate on gun rights, profiling and Florida’s controversial self-defense laws. Today, a panel of experts convenes in the city to discuss the “stand your ground” law as part of an investigation the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights launched after the teen’s death became a cause célèbre, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Michael Yaki, one of the commissioners says, “We came to Orlando because in some ways, it was ground zero for this discussion and debate.”
“Stand your ground” laws grant immunity from prosecution to those who use deadly force to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm, without any duty to first try to retreat from the danger. The commission’s goal is to assess “whether there is possible racial bias in the assertion, investigation and/or enforcement of justifiable homicide laws in states with Stand Your Ground provisions. Yaki said the probe also aims to reassure the public that its concerns about the law are being heard. Elizabeth Burke of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and David LaBahn the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys are among those speaking today.