A House committee killed off a bill to shift the burden of proof in Stand Your Ground cases earlier this week and the National Rifle Association isn’t too pleased with the committee, calling the 6-6 tie vote a “betrayal” to law-abiding gun owners.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, would shift the “burden of proof” for Stand Your Ground cases, and give defendants more protection from prosecution by requiring prosecutors to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” whether a defendant is entitled to immunity at a pretrial hearing in order to disprove a claim of self-defense immunity.
The bill’s swift death in the House committee drew fire from the NRA, which slammed several Republican state representatives for voting against the bill.
In an email sent to members, longtime lobbyist and former NRA president Marion Hammer singled out House Criminal Justice Committee chair Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, for orchestrating a betrayal to gun owners, Rep. Baxley, and the legislative process itself.
During the meeting, two amendments were offered by Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth, filed at the last minute in an effort to send the bill to a swift death.
Kerner’s amendments would have eliminated the financial penalties for prosecutors should a defendant successfully have their case dismissed by a judge and defendants would also have to show a “preponderance of evidence” supporting their claim to Stand Your Ground.
Both Trujillo and Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, joined with four Democrat representatives to vote in favor of the two amendments, while two other members of the committee -- Reps. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, were allegedly asked to walk out of the meeting before the votes were cast.
Without Latvala and Pilon’s support, the bill’s amendments passed, and when it came time to vote on the bill itself, neither showed back in the room and the vote ended in a tie.
There are no legislative “tie-breakers,” so if the bill’s vote is tied, it is essentially dead.
Kerner acknowledged after the meeting that the amendments would have severely “gutted” the legislation had it not been killed off.
“It is important to recognize and remember the committee members who were loyal to the Constitution and your right of self-defense -- as well it is the betrayers,” read an email from the NRA.
The NRA’s harsh push against Trujillo and Van Zant could set the tone against the two lawmakers for future proceedings, since the pro-gun group heavily backed the legislation.
The bill’s future is dim, but it’s not totally crossed out just yet. There’s still a possibility the legislation could be revived in the House and thrown into a package of different bills and ultimately pass, though it would be difficult to reach that point.
Regular session begins in January.