Law & the Courts

NRA, GOP Lawmakers Reject Florida Sheriff’s Application of Stand-Your-Ground Law

(Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

The NRA and the Republican lawmakers responsible for drafting Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law have rejected a local sheriff’s claim that the legislation prevented him from making an arrest in a high profile shooting death.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri chose not to arrest Michael Drejka earlier this month after the 47-year-old shot and killed an unarmed man during a dispute over a parking space. In explaining his decision not to make an arrest, Gualtieri explained that Florida’s “stand your ground law” empowered Drejka to shoot Markeis McGlockton in self-defense after McGlockton shoved him to the ground.

“The law in the state of Florida today is that people have a right to stand their ground and have a right to defend themselves when they believe that they are in harm,” Gualtieri told reporters at a press conference on July 20.

Gualtieri, a Republican who fundraises for governor Rick Scott, further claimed that his office could be held civilly liable if he arrested Drejka, citing a 2005 law granting “stand-your-ground” shooters immunity from prosecution.

NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer, who was pivotal in advancing the relevant legislation, rejected Gualtieri’s claim, pointing out that law enforcement remains free to determine that the use of deadly force was unjustified in a given case.

“Nothing in either the 2005 law or the 2017 law prohibits a Sheriff from making an arrest in a case where a person claims self-defense if there is probable cause that the use of force was unlawful,” Hammer told Politico.

“Nothing in the law says a person can sue the Sheriff for making an arrest when there is probable cause,” she added in reference to Gualtieri’s claim that his office could be held liable for making an arrest.

McGlockton can be seen on surveillance tapes backing away from Drejka after shoving him to the ground but Gualtieri has argued that, according to the “subjective standard” applied under “stand your ground” law, Drejka was justified in pulling his gun so long as he was afraid he would “be harmed again.”

But Florida state senator Dennis Bailey, who helped craft the legislation, emphasized that a person must “reasonably” believe deadly force is required.

“Stand your ground uses a reasonable-person standard. It’s not that you were just afraid,” Baxley said. “It’s an objective standard.”

Fellow Republican state senator Rob Bradley concurred, rejecting Gualtieri’s claim that the law relied on a “subjective standard.”

“An individual using a gun in self-defense in Florida must have an objective, reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm. This idea that Florida law is concerned about the subjective perceptions of a shooter is wrong,” Bradley told Politico.

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