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Senate Panel Accepts Changes to "Stand Your Ground" Law

The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to tweak the state’s controversial "stand your ground" law on Tuesday. The committee combined two bills, one by a Democrat and one by a Republican, hoping to find common ground on small changes that could clarify the law's meaning.

The new bill requires law enforcement to create guidelines for neighborhood watch groups, while requiring police to fully investigate cases where "stand your ground" is claimed.

After George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin in July, protesters camped at the state capitol for a month, demanding that the state reconsider how "stand your ground" can be applied. One of the law’s original sponsors in 2005 is now shepherding the reform bill.

Senator David Simmons, a Maitland Republican, says "stand your ground" is still a good law.

"The idea of us having the right to self-defense has been around since the dawn of civilization", said Simmons. "It is something that is just universal; that if you are attacked, you have the right to defend yourself."

Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale says he doesn't think "stand your ground" should be law, but he realizes he's in the minority.

"I fundamentally believe that there should be a duty to retreat. I voted against it in 2005, and I still fundamentally believe that there should be a duty to retreat", Smith said. "But, this process is about working together and coming up with common ground."

The National Rifle Association says it won't take a position for the time being, since those who want to misinterpret a law will always find a way to do it. Ultimately, the full Senate, House and Governor Rick Scott would have to agree to any changes to the eight-year-old law.