Warning Shot Bill, 'Stand Your Ground' Heat Up House Floor

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: March 20, 2014 6:00 PM

All eyes were fixed on legislation revolving around Florida’s Stand Your Ground law on Thursday, with Minority Leader Perry Thurston filing a late amendment to repeal the controversial self-defense law on Thursday morning. The amendment led to an intense debate over the amendment on the House floor later that afternoon.

Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, filed the amendment to HB 89 at 8:50 a.m. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Neil Combee, R-Bartow, would grant immunity to those firing warning shots in self-defense from being locked up in prison for 20 years. Thurston’s amendment would have repealed the law entirely, but was voted down by a vote of 31-83.

“I think this bill is the wrong message at the wrong time,” said Thurston.

Combee’s bill had the backing of many representatives in the House -- both Republicans and Democrats -- as well as the National Rifle Association. Legislators first proposed the changes to the self-defense law after Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a gun into a wall during a dispute with her estranged husband.

Thurston’s amendment sparked a heated hour-long debate from representatives from all parts of the state, some of whom weren’t on board with the repeal.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, spoke at length in defense of the law. Gaetz chaired the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee that shot down a bill to repeal the law in November.

Others, however, said Stand Your Ground needed to go.

“I’m tired of Florida being the laughingstock on so many policies,” said Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee. “Let’s be courageous ... let’s be bold. Let’s repeal Stand Your Ground.”

When the time came for Combee’s bill to come to a vote, the House approved it with a vote of 93-24.

Although some legislators didn’t agree with the entirety of the bill, they still believed it would be a positive step toward future changes to the law.

“The bill is a step in the right direction,” said Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. “I wish the bill did more, but I don’t think that’s the answer ... to just throw it all out.”

Earlier this week, a bill to make minor tweaks to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law made its way through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, passing the committee with a unanimous vote. The bill was debated on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen

Comments (3)

ruled by minorities
6:33AM MAR 22ND 2014
Our government is not ruled by the majority, but by the minorities who raise just enough cane to get their way. Stand your ground is nothing more than a defense in a justified action. It does not have to be a shooting, the wrong narcissist might also run up on bad, bad, Leroy Brown with a switchblade knife as well. (How would you expect him to fire a warning shot? If the victim has the right to assert stand your ground, they have the legal right to commit the actions they committed, plain and simple. Why should a person legally defending themselves have to fire a warning shot before taking legal action to defend themselves? Shouldn't the perpetrator already have sense enough to realize they are in the wrong and cease and desist they attack? Why doesn't the criminal have any duty to act civilized in what is supposed to be a civilized nation? Because most of them have been used by the elite to push they platforms of the destruction of America and the elite can't stand it that they have thus far been unable to take our guns that's why!
7:20AM MAR 21ST 2014
This bill should be REJECTED. Perry Thurston filed his amendment based on racial points rather than realizing the vast majority of LEGAL citizens in Florida WANT "Stand Your Ground" to remain active!
I disagree with allowing warning shots. Unless, of course, the first shot is IN the perp followed by two "warning shots" into the air!
Loki Luck III
6:44PM MAR 20TH 2014
I've examined SB 130 thoroughly & in good faith, it needs to be reject it.

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