Republican lawmaker, NRA lobbyist challenge Florida sheriff on 'Stand Your Ground' stance in shooting

Republicans who helped craft and pass Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law have reportedly joined a chorus of critics challenging the Pinellas County sheriff who cited the law as a reason he couldn't charge a man in a deadly shooting.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri recently said his hands were tied in deciding whether to charge a man in a shooting outside a convenience store because the "Stand Your Ground" law “created a standard, that is a largely subjective standard” for the use of deadly force by a shooter. Gualtieri also noted another new state law could mean his office may be civilly liable simply for arresting the shooter.

But not so, say experts -- including lawmakers who wrote "Stand Your Ground," criminal lawyers and a National Rifle Association lobbyist -- who were interviewed by POLITICO about Gualtieri's controversial remarks.

“Nothing in either the 2005 ["Stand Your Ground"] law or the 2017 law [about immunity from prosecution] 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,” Tallahassee NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer told Politico. Hammer helped pass "Stand Your Ground" through the GOP-led Florida Legislature.

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“Nothing in the law says a person can sue the Sheriff for making an arrest when there is probable cause,” she said in an email, according to POLITICO.

State Sen. Dennis Baxley, a Republican who sponsored "Stand Your Ground" in 2005 told Politico he also disputed Gualtieri’s assertion that, in passing the law, lawmakers created a standard that was largely subjective.

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

Gualtieri's remarks -- and the swift repudiation of them by Republicans -- underscore the tensions in the middle of an election year. Democrats have seized on the case to renew calls for an end to "Stand Your Ground" and say it has racial overtones.

Image from surveillance video showing the fatal shooting on July 19 after an argument over a handicapped parking spot at a convenience store in Clearwater, Fla.  (FOX13 Tampa)

Gualtieri did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News.  

Markeis McGlockton, 28, a black man with three young children, shoved Michael Drejka, 47, a white man, to the ground on July 19 at a Clearwater convenience store and then was shot and killed when Drejka, from a sitting position, pulled out a gun he legally owned and opened fire. The bullet struck McGlockton in the chest.

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The incident was captured on surveillance video and drew national attention. The argument began when Drejka questioned McGlockton’s girlfriend about parking in the handicapped parking space without a permit while McGlockton went inside the store.  

“He told deputies that he had to shoot to defend himself. Those are the facts and that’s the law," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was quoted as saying. ”No matter how you slice it or dice it that was a violent push to the ground.”