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Senate Passes 'Warning Shot' Bill

April 2, 2014 - 6:00pm

A warning shot bill to grant immunity to Florida gun owners who point their defensive handgun at an attacker was approved Thursday by the Florida Senate, 32-7.

After a year of headlines involving widespread media coverage of Floridas Stand Your Ground law, guns have been a hot topic during the 2014 legislative session.

SB 448, proposed by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, was inspired by the case of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a gun near her estranged husband during an altercation.

SB 448 would grant immunity to Florida gun owners who point their defensive handgun at an attacker. The bill also intends to fix issues that arise due to the Florida law which requires mandatory sentencing for certain gun crimes.

Under Floridas 10-20-Life law, certain gun crimes can be punishable by at least 10 years in prison and others may be punishable for 20 years or longer if the weapon is actually fired.

The warning shot bill would provide criminal and civil immunity to those who threaten to use force if the threat was made in a manner and under circumstances had force actually been used.

Evers bill would ensure that these individuals would not be sentenced to the mandatory minimum sentences as dictated by the 10-20-Life law.

Some lawmakers expressed hesitation over the bill. Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said passing the legislation was akin to opening Pandoras Box.I just dont know whats in it, she said.

Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, pointed to cases like Trayvon Martin, who was shot by neighborhood watch officer George Zimmerman, as reasons why he couldnt get on board with the bill.

Trayvon Martin did nothing to anyone ... but because of the effects of ... this [Stand Your Ground] law, was victimized on trial for everyone to see, he said.

But for Evers, the bill isnt about warning shots. It's about a larger issue in the Sunshine State: self-defense.

This [bill] is about self-defense, he said Thursday. This is about the right thing to do ...This is just one more step forward for citizens to protect themselves and hopefully they won't spend time in our state institutions.

Evers bill has already gathered support from the National Rifle Association, which had urged its members to contact their legislators to get them to support it.

The House passed its "Warning Shot" bill, HB 89, on March 20, after a disruptive session in which Minority Leader Perry Thurston attempted unsuccessfully to repeal the state's Stand Your Ground law.

The measure will now head to Gov. Rick Scott.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atAllison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at@AllisonNielsen.

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