Monday, November 24th, 2014

Fact-checking Florida's 'stand your ground' law

A crowd rallies outside a city commission meeting in Sanford. Photo by Kathleen Flynn/Tampa Bay Times.
A crowd rallies outside a city commission meeting in Sanford. Photo by Kathleen Flynn/Tampa Bay Times.

There's a lot of debate going on about Florida's "stand your ground" law and how it may protect neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman from facing criminal charges in the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford.

Confused? PolitiFact Florida is here to help. We checked out three recent claims from state lawmakers about the law, starting with its origins and wading into its possible effects on crime over seven years.

The first claim comes from Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, who said that seven years ago, she and other opponents "said it portends horrific events when people’s lives were put into these situations." It marks Joyner's first appearance on the Truth-O-Meter. We went back to the archives of  House debate on the bill to check out her statement. Twenty House Democrats voted against the bill that day but were dramatically overruled.

Next, we checked a claim on MSNBC from the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. He said even though the number of justifiable homicides has increased since "stand your ground" went into effect, Florida has had"a dramatic drop in violent crime since this law has been in effect." Baxley implies causation. We take a closer look.

Our most recent story dissects a claim by Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, that "since the law’s passage, deaths due to self defense have jumped over 250 percent." It's also his first time on the Truth-O-Meter.

If you see a "stand your ground" statement worth checking send us a message on Twitter @PolitiFactFl or through our Facebook page, Facebook.com/PolitiFact.Florida