By GROMER JEFFERS JR.
GROMER JEFFERS JR. The Dallas Morning News
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bushsaid Friday that the “stand your ground” self-defense law he signed while in office should not apply to the case of a teenager who was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in his home state.
“This law does not apply to this particular circumstance,” Bush said after an education panel discussion at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”
He was referring to last month’s incident in which 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was pursued by the volunteer and fatally shot in a scuffle.
“Anytime an innocent life is taken it’s a tragedy,” Bush said. “You’ve got to let the process work.”
Bush signed the law, pushed for by gun rights advocates, in 2005. It allows Florida residents to use deadly force rather than retreat if they feel threatened, even if they are not at home. Police and prosecutors cited the law in deciding not to charge George Zimmerman, the volunteer.
The Martin case has opened up questions about race and justice. The teenager was walking home from a convenience store Feb. 26, in Sanford, Fla., an Orlando suburb, when Zimmerman followed Martin, after calling police to say he looked suspicious. Zimmerman pulled his gun when the two got into a fight, and Martin was fatally shot.
Martin had no weapon, carrying only a drink and a bag of candy.
Zimmerman said that Martin attacked him as he tried to return to his truck. But supporters of the teen’s family say that would have been wildly out of character and that the case is typical of black youths being harassed and endangered for simply being in an area.
The case has sparked protests and demands for a new investigation. The town’s police chief and a local prosecutor have stepped aside in hopes of defusing tension.
Bush said Friday that he wondered why the investigation has taken so long to reach a conclusion. He said it took several weeks of outrage and media attention for local officials to step up their efforts.
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” he said. Bush added that he didn’t want a rush to judgment, but that officials should be mindful that “there are a lot of people who are very concerned about this.”
“You’ve got to let the judicial process work,” he said. “Hopefully it’s done at a pace that is respectful for people hurting.”
Bush also said that he still liked the law. “Applied properly, I support the law,” he said.
The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating the killing as a civil rights matter.
Turning to politics, Bush, a son and brother of former presidents, said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would win the Republican nomination and that freshman Florida Sen. Marco Rubio should be Romney’s running mate.
Romney is “the candidate that can beat President Obama,” Bush said.
He also said that his son, George P. Bush, should one day seek public office. The younger Bush, who lives in Austin, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Texas land commissioner.
“I hope he gets involved,” he said. “I don’t know if he will or not. He’s a special young man.”