The “warning shot” bill heads to Florida Gov. Richard L. Scott’s desk after the Florida Senate passed this legislation the first week in April, in an attempt to rid the state of penalties for firing a warning shot in self-defense.
“I haven’t had a chance to review it yet, but I fully believe in the Second Amendment,” said Governor Rick Scott in a press conference after the bill passed the Senate.
The warning shot bill was first passed by the House in November.
“If Governor Scott is pro-Second Amendment as he claims, he should have reviewed the bill and been advocating for its passage all along,” said Dudley Brown on Friday, Executive Vice President of the National Association for Gun Rights, which prides itself as a no-compromise, gun rights organization.
State Rep. Neil Combee (R.-Polk City), one of two lead sponsors of the bill with state Rep. Katie Edwards (D.-Broward), said Florida statutes enable an individual to justify the actual use of force in their own self-defense.
However, a close read of Chapter 776, reflects that only a person’s actual use of force can bejustifiable – not a person’s threatened use of force. Similarly, the chapter provides criminal and civil immunity to persons who lawfully use force in self-defense – not those who threaten to use force, he said.
This bill amends Chapter 776 to specify that a person’s threat to use force may be justifiable. This Bill also amends Chapter 776 to specify that a person who lawfully threatens to use force is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action. There is overwhelming bipartisan support for this bill, with 37 co-sponsors.
The warning shot bill comes in response to the sentencing of a Florida woman Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years after she fired a warning shot during an argument with her estranged husband.
Alexander’s prison term is a result of former Florida governor John E. “Jeb” Bush’s 1999 passage of the anti-gun “10-20 life” bill that mandates minimum sentences of 10 years for pulling a gun, 20 years for firing a gun and 25 to life for shooting someone.
“This is about self-defense,” said the Senate’s bill sponsor, state Sen. Greg Evers (R-Baker). “It’s one more step forward for people to protect themselves.”
There are worries from gun groups that Governor Scott will not sign the bill into law due to his past record on Second Amendment bills.
“Unfortunately, Governor Scott has shown his anti-gun colors by signing HB-1355 into law last summer, stripping law-abiding Floridians of their gun rights for voluntarily seeking mental health treatment,” said Brown. “We hope he acts in support of his constituents’ Second Amendment rights this time and doesn’t just give them lip-service.”
As reporters continued to press Scott’s office for comment on if the governor would sign the bill, his spokesman John Tupp gave a statement: “Governor Scott supports the Second Amendment and Florida’s self-defense laws. He looks forward to reviewing this legislation in its entirety now that it has been approved by both the House and the Senate.”