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Outrage Is Rising Against Stand Your Ground

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"Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation's attention, it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods. These laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if -- and the 'if' is important -- if no safe retreat is available.

"But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common-sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely. By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety.

The list of resulting tragedies is long and, unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent. It is our collective obligation; we must stand OUR ground to ensure -- we must stand our ground to ensure that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent."

A national "No More Stand Your Ground" petition drive has already attracted more than 50,000 signatures.

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The Seattle Times has editorialized that "the single best memorial to Trayvon Martin -- Justice for Trayvon -- is repeal of Florida's Stand Your Ground law."

The movement to repeal "stand your ground" laws is growing in the states. In Georgia, State Senate Democratic whip Vincent Fort has introduced legislation that would replace that state's "stand your ground" law with new legislation requiring anyone with a gun to withdraw from a threatening circumstance before using deadly force. In New Hampshire, Democratic State Representative Steve Shurtleff has been working to overturn that state's "stand your ground" law and has attracted the support of the Concord Monitor newspaper, which says, "New Hampshire's law should be repealed before someone here is killed by a gunman intent on standing his ground when he could instead walk away from a fight. Many Americans have concluded that it was Zimmerman, not Martin who 'got away,' despite what the gunman said before the shooting. Making that less likely in the future is a cause we must all embrace."

In Florida, State Senator Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, has renewed a push to overturn the original "Stand Your Ground" law,  saying , "Florida has to fix this problem because Florida created this problem with the kind of law that we placed on the books, so we have to change the law or we are going to see more Trayvon Martins." Members of the  Dream Defenders group occupied Florida Governor Rick Scott's office Tuesday,  seeking a commitment from the governor to call a special session of the legislature to address the issue.

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Stevie Wonder is on the side of their struggle.

"I decided today that until the 'Stand Your Ground' law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again," the musician declared after the verdict was announced.

But Wonder, a veteran civil rights campaigner who played an instrumental role in establishing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday, and who was an outspoken critic of apartheid during the era when international artists refused to play South Africa's Sun City resort went further. Recognizing that the fight against "stand your ground" is not just a Florida struggle, he added, "As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world."

What role did white womanhood play in the trial of George Zimmerman?

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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