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Durbin to hold hearing on 'Stand Your Ground' laws

July 19, 2013 at 2:31 PM   |   Comments

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., July 19 (UPI) -- Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Friday he plans to hold a hearing on "Stand Your Ground" laws now on the books in Florida and 30 other states.

The Florida law has become controversial because of the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed when he was shot by George Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer who said he fired in self-defense.

Durbin, who heads the subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, said the hearing set for September will examine the role of gun rights advocacy groups in passing "Stand Your Ground" laws. He said the hearing will also look at whether the laws contribute to needless gun violence and their civil rights implications.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said he won't call a special legislative session to consider changes to the law because it doesn't need revision.

Scott met with seven protesters, most affiliated with the activist group Dream Defenders, Thursday to discuss their concerns about the law in the aftermath of Zimmerman's acquittal of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Martin last year, the Tallahassee Democrat reported Friday. At the time of the February 2012 shooting, police cited the Florida law as a reason they didn't immediately arrest Zimmerman.

"I want to give you once again the opportunity to ask you if you'll be calling a special session of the Legislature to address this issue," Phillip Agnew, said executive director of Dream Defenders.

Protesters wanted to give Scott a chance to call a special session to address the issue.

"I'm not going to call a special session; I don't believe right now that Stand Your Ground should be changed, but I can tell you I appreciate you," the governor said.

Scott said he spoke with Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, earlier Thursday and offered his condolences.

His office also said a day of prayer would be Sunday.

The activists said they would remain inside the Capitol building until a special session is called to address the controversial law.

"As I've said before we believe in the most American of values to peaceably assemble and petition our lawmakers in the instance of grievance," Agnew said. "As I've said before we do plan on staying, until you call that special session."

The protesters said they would stay at the Capitol through the weekend, the newspaper said. Once the doors close at 5 p.m. Friday they won't be reopened until 8 a.m. Monday.

Other organizations expressed support for the Dream Defenders.

"Many of us have forgotten about how we've gotten where we are," said the Rev. R.L. Gundy, president of the Florida Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Gundy called on church congregations and people in the state and across the nation to rally behind the protesters and to demonstrate that people want serious action on the part of the legislature.

"We've got to figure out how to get on board and move this forward," Gundy said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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