LONGWOOD, Fla. -- A task force set up by Gov. Rick Scott to evaluate Florida's stand-your-ground law is holding its first public hearing Tuesday.
MORE: Watch the public hearing on stand-your-ground
The group - whose members include law enforcement officers, politicians, and community leaders - plan to have several other meetings across the state following the national uproar over the death of Trayvon Martin. Tuesday's meeting will include presentations by experts who will talk about how the law is used in self-defense cases as well as a four-hour opportunity for public comment.
"This gives us an opportunity to be educated and also to educate the public," said Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, chair of the Task Force on Citizens Safety and Protection. "We want to be open and receptive. We want the citizens to know they are part of how we move forward."
George Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother is Hispanic, is charged with the Feb. 26 fatal shooting of Trayvon, an unarmed black 17-year-old, in a gated Sanford, Fla., community. A neighborhood watch volunteer, Zimmerman, 28, says he shot Trayvon in self-defense after being attacked.
Police initially did not charge Zimmerman with a crime, citing Florida's stand-your-ground law, which states that a person does not have to retreat in the face of a threat and can use deadly force if fearing danger of death or serious harm.
Part of Tuesday's meeting will be about helping people process their thoughts and emotions following the shooting. "It is a good way for them to vent and share whatever their concerns, issues, and anxieties may be," Carroll said.
After hearing from residents and experts on stand-your-ground cases, the group will prepare a report for Scott and the Florida Legislature. In doing so, officials hope to balance individual rights and public safety, Carroll said.
More on stand-your-ground laws
State Rep. Dennis Baxley, who sponsored the state's law, also sits on the task force and has said that officials should proceed cautiously in their review. "A lot of the data still shows that it has been very effective in protecting people from harm and acts of violence," Baxley, a Republican, told USA TODAY last week.
Trayvon's parents and members of the Second Chance on Shoot First campaign, a coalition that includes New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the NAACP and the National Urban League, will hold a rally at noon outside Northland Church where the task force is meeting. The group plans to present a petition signed by 340,000 people online asking the task force and state legislators to reform or repeal the state's stand-your-ground law.
"We will be doing everything in our power to make sure these hearings broadly and accurately reflect the reality of shoot first laws," said Chris Brown, a spokesman for the campaign. "We hope to demonstrate that the public is concerned about the recklessness of these laws and the negative impact they have in making communities safe."