TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (USA TODAY) -- Hundreds of marchers joined the parents of slain black teens Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin and the Rev. Al Sharpton to call Monday for changes to Florida's stand your ground law.
Also walking from the Leon County Civic Center to the Florida Capitol less than a mile away was the family of Marissa Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years for firing a gun in the direction of her estranged husband.
Florida law gives people who are not involved in illegal activity the right to stand their ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if they reasonably believe it's necessary to avoid death or great bodily harm.
"It's a flawed law because you don't need an actual threat," Sharpton said. "All you've got to do is believe a threat and you can use deadly force."
Those looking for change have been adamant that self-defense laws have been used against minorities disproportionately. They believe that force should be used only after all other options have been exhausted.
In the past year:
• A judge declared a mistrial Feb. 15 on the murder charge against Davis' killer, Michael Dunn. Instead, deadlocked jurors convicted Dunn of second-degree attempted murder for firing at a group of Jacksonville teenagers on Nov. 23, 2012.
• George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer accused of murdering Martin, was found not guilty July 13, 2013, of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting.
• Alexander faces a new trial July 28 after being sentenced in 2012 to 20 years in prison for firing what she says was a warning shot on Aug. 1, 2010, to scare off her estranged husband, who had a restraining order against him, during a dispute. Rico Gray was not injured, and a judge threw out Alexander's stand-your-ground self-defense claim. She is out of jail but is confined electronically to her home.
Sharpton said polling Florida legislators was the first step to national change.
"Florida is the first state to enact the law in 2005," he said. "We came back to where it started to begin where it will end."
The Republican-dominated Legislature has shown no interested in making any substantial changes to the stand your ground law. Democrats the past two years have filed bills to repeal it or amend the law.
The protesters planned to attend House and Senate criminal justice committee hearings in hopes of telling lawmakers they want them to consider action on the law.
In November, the Florida House Criminal Justice Subcommittee shot down a full repeal of the law. Other bills, still potentially in play in the Legislature, would tweak stand your ground to include, a necessary obligation to retreat and use of force only after that option has been exhausted.
Some of the bills change the situation that put Zimmerman in the position to pursue Martin. Senate Bill 130, by Sen. Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to develop county or municipal police training programs for neighborhood watch programs and not allow immunity to the aggressor in a situation.
The bill had favorable support in the Senate Judiciary Committee in October and has potential to be heard in the Criminal Justice Committee.
A House bill that Orlando Democrat Bruce Antone filed draws a harder line on self-defense.
HB 33 allows use of force, except deadly force, in the case of thwarting a felony. It also removes restrictions on law enforcement from arresting an individual for using force unless there is probable cause the force used was unlawful.
The bill has two more committee meetings and has yet to be heard in the same House Criminal Justice Subcommittee that voted down the full repeal 11-2 in November.
In the summer, members of the group Dream Defenders, who also attended Monday's rally, had a monthlong sit-in at the Capitol here to try to get lawmakers to call a special session to address the law, but Florida Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders refused to do so.
Contributing: The Associated Press