Warning shot bill to be heard on Senate floor

Warning shot bill to be heard on Senate floor

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Firing a warning shot could be made legal as a self-defense tactic, as legislators consider a bill in Tallahassee.

The 'warning shot' bill has been approved by its final Senate committee and will be heard on the Senate floor.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Pensacola, has garnered attention due to the Marissa Alexander case in Jacksonville. Alexander is currently imprisoned after being sentenced to 20 years for firing a gun near her estranged husband during an altercation.

The new bill addresses "10-20-life" in self-defense cases. Passed in 1999, the 10-20-life law requires lengthy sentences for specific felony firearm convictions.  An NRA lobbyist said 10-20-life was not intended to be used in self-defense cases.

"If you think you can take a warning shot to prevent a crime, but you've gone a little bit over the edge to far, or it was a misdemeanor or wasn't an aggravated felony, all of a sudden you're facing a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence," said Jon Gutmacher, author of Florida Firearms Law, Use and Ownership.

The legislation is being  taken up under the "Threatened Use of Force" bill.  Gutmacher said the legislation needs improvement.

"That's the one that is most controversial and needs the most work."

While Gutmacher doubts the warning shot legislation will stay in the bill, there is another aspect which he expects to pass.

"The most important part is to get rid of the mandatory minimum and aggravated assault, and that's something everybody agrees on," he said.

Right now, if you point a gun at someone in Florida without even firing a shot, it's considered aggravated assault, with a penalty of three years in prison.

"It can even be, 'If you don't get away from me, I'm gonna pull my gun and shoot you.' I don't even have to point my gun for an aggravated assault," Gutmacher said.  "I've seen it in two cases where a judge apologizes to the defendant and says, 'You don't deserve this, but I don't have any choice.'"

Alexander awaits a new trial after she won her appeal. The sentencing judge felt forced to abide by 10-20-life.

Opponents of the proposed changes worry they will encourage more people to fire shots.

Gutmacher said he is making recommendations to the NRA president about language in the bill.


Some information taken from the Associated Press.

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