Lawmakers are aiming to expand Florida's "stand your ground" law with the help of a top NRA lobbyist.
Gawker's Adam Weinstein reported that S.B. 448, which would protect someone who fires warning shots or waves a weapon when they feel threatened, was written by Marion Hammer, a former NRA president.
The bill would amend the current law, which permits residents to use deadly force under certain circumstances, to allow the "threatened use of force." Gun owners couldn't be arrested for brandishing a gun or firing warning shots. The legislation also could lead to more permissive open-carry laws or lighter requirements for gun licensing.
If passed, S.B. 448 would apply "immunity provisions that relate to the use of force to the threatened use of force," meaning that gun owners wouldn't be subject to state "10-20-life" laws mandating an automatic 10-year sentence for anyone convicted of flashing or using a gun in the commission of a felony.
The "10-20-life" law was passed in 1999. Ironically, Gawker noted, the NRA supported that bill at the time.
The legislation was partially inspired by the case of Marissa Alexander. The Jacksonville woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2012 after firing a gun near her estranged husband during an argument two years before. Alexander is scheduled to have a new trial this year after the original conviction was thrown out by an appeals court.
An effort to repeal the stand your ground law in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the Trayvon Martin murder trial failed in November. The Republican-led Florida House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted against a measure proposed by state Rep. Alan Williams (D). Zimmerman was acquitted in July of fatally shooting 17-year-old Martin during a confrontation in the community where Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer.
The new S.B. 448 passed every committee that reviewed it in the Legislature, and has 42 House co-sponsors, including 11 Democrats. It passed out of the state's Senate Judiciary Committee on a unanimous vote earlier this month.