Law legalizing warning shots in Florida passes Senate panel
A bill that would make it legal for Florida residents to show guns or fire warning shots in self-defense has passed the state’s Senate panel. The warning-shot bill SB 448, would amend the state’s controversial “stand your ground” defense, cleared its first Senate committee on Wednesday.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously passed the bill by committee Chairman Greg Evers, R-Baker. One member of the panel, Sen. Charlie Dean, a former Citrus County sheriff, even asked House sponsor Neil Combee to consider adding an amendment that would expunge the criminal records of people charged in this way. Combee said he would.
Combee, R-Polk City, first sponsored the bill after hearing about Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison under the 10-20-Life sentencing law for firing a gun into a wall during a dispute with her husband. Combee described Alexander’s sentence as an example of the “negative unintended consequences” of 10-20-Life, which requires mandatory-minimum prison terms for gun-related crimes.
Under the current 10-20-Life law, possessing a gun while committing certain crimes is punishable by a minimum 10 year prison sentence. Discharging a gun while committing those crimes comes with a minimum 20 year prison sentence and hurting or killing someone is punishable by 25 years to life in prison. The original version of Combee’s bill was opposed by prosecutors and the Florida Sheriffs Association.
They argued the current sentencing bill worked too well to be altered. The 2014 bill would permit people who are being attacked and fear for their lives to display guns, threaten to use the weapons or fire warning shots.
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