01/09/2014 02:34 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Florida Advances Controversial 'Warning Shot' Bill

Florida state Sen. Greg Evers’ (R-Baker) controversial new “warning shot” bill unanimously passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday, advancing legislation that would allow individuals to display a weapon or discharge a warning shot if they feel their life, home or property are being threatened.

"It's whatever force is needed for a person to protect themselves, and however they need to protect themselves is what the bill's about," Evers, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, told 10News.

SB488 was inspired by the case of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who received a 20-year prison sentence for aggravated assault after firing a warning shot during a dispute with her estranged husband in 2012.

“I think this bill speaks loudly to the state attorneys, to the State Attorney Association that this Legislature will not put up with [sentencing] folks who are using their lawful right to display a gun, or are firing a warning shot,” Evers said, according to WFSU.

Evers’ Senate bill, along with similar legislation drafted in the House, would grant Floridians the same protections offered under the state’s “stand your ground” law, safeguarding citizens from Florida sentencing laws, which mandate a minimum 10-year prison term for certain felony convictions involving the use of a firearm or weapon.

"On stand your ground, you physically have to shoot someone or use physical force against that person," Evers told 10News. "Why should you have to go to that extreme?"

State attorney Bill Cervone of the 8th Judicial Circuit expressed concern about changing Florida's self-defense laws, and a potential “miscarriage of justice.”

“Collectively, I think we are greatly concerned about scenarios where there could be a miscarriage of justice,” Cervone told the Florida Times-Union. “We’re more concerned about guilty people who hide behind [‘stand your ground’]. The defense bar has equal concerns about the other side of the coin.”

Instead of expanding state gun laws, Florida state Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) proposed giving greater discretion to state judges, according to the Associated Press.

Rep. Neil Combee (R-Polk City), who is sponsoring the House version of the bill, proposed a similar bill in 2013, which was killed in committee without the support of the Florida Sheriffs Association and state prosecutors.



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