Controversial Florida gun laws like Stand Your Ground law are now being joined by a newcomer to the world of self defense laws, in the form of the Warning Shot bill.
The latest development on controversial gun laws comes in the form of the new “warning shot bill“. The latest slant on Florida gun laws proposes a potential victim is within their legal rights to fire a warning shot to deter attackers. This come on the heels of the case of Jacksonville resident Marissa Alexander, who was handed a 20-year prison sentence after firing a gun near her estranged husband during a fight.
Last year, a similar bill was proposed but gained no traction. Now, in light of the recent Alexander case, which was thrown out by appeals court and is going back to trial, the warning shot bill is moving forward. The increased attention from Ms. Alexanders case can be thought of as inspiration in the current change of mood in the House and Senate. On Wednesday a Senate committee voted up bill SB 488 and the House similarly voted in favor of HB 89.
The bill is reportedly being designed to allow people to not only show a gun in the event of trouble, but can go so far as to fire a warning shot, as the name spells out. The current Stand Your Ground law already allows citizens to threaten to use force, but the new bill further exempts people from Florida’s “10-20-Life” law, which requires anyone showing a gun while committing a felony to face 10 years in prison. That law also says that in the event someone is shot and wounded, the sentence goes to 25 years to life in prison.
Marion Hammer, from the National Rifle Association (NRA) spoke briefly on the issues the current law poses:
“While the gun rights group supported the sentencing law, it is being used to prosecute people who are exercising self-defense. The “10-20-Life” law was intended to stop sentence reductions and plea deals for “gun-wielding criminals.”
However, opponents to the new bill also speak to the issues that the new bill could present. State Attorney Bill Cervone argued that the bill was relying on anecdotal ideals:
“We’re only hearing from folks who are one side of this. If someone is in prison, it was after a jury and judge rejected the claim of ‘self-defense.’”
But bill sponsor Senator Greg Evers, R-Baker also had something to say in return:
“The bill speaks loudly.This Legislature will not put up with folks who are using their lawful right to display a gun or fire a warning shot.”
Senator Evers told a story about a retired 74-year-old man living in the Panhandle who was given a sentence because he had a shotgun visible. While such stories are testimony to the need to revisit Florida’s gun laws, State Attorney Cervone suggested the better option might be to simply remove aggravated assault from the list of mandatory minimum sentences for offenses.
The bottom line seems to be that Florida’s legislators don’t want to be seen as “encouraging” people to brandish or shoot guns with any of the Florida gun laws.
So what do you think of the Florida Stand Your Ground law being joined by the new Warning Shot bill?