Fox News (and other media outlets) are reporting that Florida’s so called “warning shots” legislation inspired by the Marissa Alexander case is almost certain to become law.
The Florida Senate on Thursday approved the so-called warning shot bill, moving to significantly revise the state’s self-defense laws for the first time since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
The bill, which was partly inspired by the case of a Jasonville woman sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a shot near her estranged husband during an altercation, passed the chamber 32-7. The woman, Marissa Alexander, is out on bail awaiting a new trial.
The bill, which earlier received backing from the Republican-controlled House, now goes to the desk of Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Alexander had tried to assert a “stand your ground” defense, but a judge rejected her claim. She was sentenced under a 1999 law called “10-20-life” in which mandatory sentences are imposed for using a gun in certain cases.
That law requires that anyone who shows a gun in the commission of certain felonies receive an automatic 10 years in prison. If a gun is fired, it’s an automatic 20 years under that law. Shoot and wound someone and the mandatory sentence is 25 years to life.
The warning shot bill, however, would allow for instances of threatened use of force without falling under the rule of “10-20-life.”
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer and supporters said “10-20-life” wasn’t intended to be used in self-defense cases.
I ripped into the bill last month, concerned over just how deadly a bill authorizing warning shots would be. Worldwide, hundreds of people are killed every year by bullets fired into the air, and bullets fired into hard ground, walls, ceilings or floors kill and injury people every year.
My mistake is that I trusted that the mainstream media journalists reporting on the law actually knew what they were talking about.
They aren’t even close.
Much of the discussion of SB-448 is replete with terms like “warning shot” and “stand-your-ground.” In reality, however, the law does not even mention the term “warning shot,” nor does it make any substantive changes whatever to Florida’s stand-your-ground law.
So, what exactly does SB-448 do (note: the full text of the proposed bill is embedded at the bottom of this post, but all hyperlinks are to the statutes as they currently exist prior to modification by SB-448)? Here’s a bulleted list, with details below. In summary SB-448 provides:
- No statutory authorization for firing “warning shots”—indeed, the statutory language would deny justification to any “warning shot” that “poses a threat to public safety,” which would seem to apply to all but the rarest circumstances.
- No substantive change to stand-your-ground.
- Where the use of force would have been lawful in defense of a person, the mere threat is also lawful in defense of a person.
- Where the use of force would have been lawful in defense of a home, business, or occupied vehicle, the mere threat of force is also lawful in defense of a home, business, or occupied vehicle.
- Where the use of force would have been lawful in defense of personal property or to prevent a forcible felony, the mere threat of force is also lawful in defense of personal property or to prevent a forcible felony.
- Where immunity would attach to a use of force, immunity will similarly attach to a mere threat of force.
- Allows for expunction of criminal history associated with a lawful act of self-defense.