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Sunday November 23rd 2014

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Viewpoint 6/21/12

What to Do With the Truth?
By Mary Jo Melone

Could the facts really be heeded for once? Or will they end up in the same bin as global warming, where all unpleasant facts go?

The Tampa Bay Times just published a sweeping investigation of the crazy results of the application of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

People who shoot black people get off more often than those who shoot whites.

Drug dealers have successfully hidden behind the law.

Defendants who shoot people in the back escape prosecution.

Some people who have legitimate defenses have been convicted.

The hands of judges and prosecutors are tied.

And vigilantes and bullies have more right to shoot than cops.

On Tuesday, June 5, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll said the panel reviewing the law in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death would look closely to make sure it is applied equally. The panel will use the Times’ data to do its evaluation. This is a testament to the power of good journalism, but the state’s ignorance of the law’s impact is also a sign of how blithely the Legislature and Jeb Bush decided to turn Florida into a real-life version of a John Wayne movie, complete with showdowns in the streets. In the real-life version, the Times established that the gunslinger left standing when the dust settles is often no hero.

The state’s taking notice of the inconvenient facts that the newspaper uncovered might be a reason for optimism that Stand Your Ground will be seriously reformed. But Carroll co-sponsored the law when it was adopted in 2005, and she works for a man who has decided that it’s just fine if angry people among the demonstrators at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August are armed. Here’s a prediction: if anybody in the crowd shoots—heaven forbid—he’ll use a Stand Your Ground defense.

The four legislators also on the review panel include Dennis Baxley, the Republican from Ocala who introduced the law, and Jason Brodeur of Sanford, where Trayvon Martin died. It was Brodeur who introduced the assault on the First Amendment that had a judge not intervened, would have banned pediatricians from asking parents if they have guns at home. Not a single legislator on the committee believes in gun control.

Perhaps others on the panel—lawyers, judges, neighborhood watch volunteers among them—will be seized by thinking unfettered from the NRA and prevail. Please, please, may they not decide that the facts, as presented by the Times, are what Ronald Reagan once famously called “stupid things.”

Mary Jo Melone, former columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, is a writer in Tampa and columnist for Florida Voices.