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News Clips 08/29/2013
EDITORIAL: ‘Stand your ground’ class at FAU should offer lesson to the Legislature
Source: Palm Beach Post, 08/28/13
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By Randy Schultz
What will happen through early December at Florida Atlantic University regarding the “stand your ground” law should happen next year in the Legislature.
For three hours each week, as many as 75 students will learn about the controversial law, discuss the law and form an opinion on the law. They will hear from those within the criminal justice system who must deal with the law. They will examine the many court rulings from self-defense cases based on stand your ground. They will give the law the hearing it never got before the Legislature passed it in 2005 — the hearing it still deserves in front of legislators.
According to Richard J. Mangan, program coordinator for FAU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and a former agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the class arose from a discussion in late July about the wider issue of self-dense that, in turn, arose from the George Zimmerman case. “As we have a rather new Public Safety Administration degree program,” Mr. Mangan said in email, “we felt that it would make an excellent elective in that program, and that students would have a great deal of interest in the subject.”
Indeed, despite the tight deadline, Tuesday night’s first class at the Boca Raton campus was nearly full at 73 students. Engagement should be high. The students are juniors and seniors. Some are aspiring lawyers. Two are police officers. Adjunct professor Frank de la Torre, a public defender in Broward County, says he wants the students at the end of the class “to articulate whether the law is needed or not.” He wants them to “listen to each other’s opinions respectfully” and discuss the issue in an “honest, scholarly, intelligent way.” In other words, he wants them to rise above Congress.
Despite early vows not to change the law, supporters are starting to yield. Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, this week proposed legislation to clarify guidelines for neighborhood watch volunteers. Mr. Zimmerman, one of those volunteers, was not supposed to be armed and was not supposed to pursue Trayvon Martin.
From that hasty, uninformed pandering to the National Rifle Association eight years ago have flowed many consequences, unintended or otherwise. Legislators at least should change portions of the law. Maybe they’ll get some good ideas from the students.