Fla. lawmaker files bill to eliminate punishment for warning shots

Florida Rep. Neil Combee filed a “warning shot” bill Thursday after a Jacksonville woman received a 20-year sentence under Florida’s mandatory sentencing laws for firing a warning shot during an argument with her estranged husband.

HB 89, or the Defense of Life, Home, and Property bill, would exempt from Florida’s 10-20-Life mandatory sentencing provisions the display or discharge of a firearm when used as a warning, according to the bill.

The Polk County Republican filed the bill after Marissa Alexander was sent to prison for the 2010 incident. She has since won a new trial on appeal.

“I can’t imagine and don’t believe anyone intended that ‘10-20-Life’ should apply to someone who felt they were threatened,” Combee said, according to the Miami Herald. “What crime did she commit? She wasn’t robbing a store.”

Greg Newbum, the Florida project director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, applauds the bill, according to his group’s website.

“Rep. Combee has shown true leadership in advocating a common sense reform that will restore some sanity to our sentencing laws,” Newburn said, according to Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “The Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground show Florida’s commitment to standing with victims. Reforming 10-20-Life is the next step in affirming that commitment.”

I’m not quite convinced. A basic rule of handling firearms is that you never display a weapon, aim it or place your finger on the trigger unless you intend to use it in defense of yourself or others. A “warning shot” is not self-defense. A shot directed at your attacker’ is.

If Combee was looking for a cause to champion in promoting his bill, he chose poorly.

When Alexander went to her estranged husband’s home and had an argument, she was able to flee. Instead of getting in her car and driving away, she took her gun from the glove compartment, returned to the home and discharged the weapon in the direction of her husband and two children, nearly missing her husband’s head, according to MediaTracker.

The bullet went through the wall and was lodged in the ceiling of the next room.

Every right carries with it a responsibility, and although the sentence may have been excessive, Alexander acted irresponsibly in this case. Warning shots have no place in society. A weapon should not be displayed or discharged except in cases that call for deadly force. Do you agree or disagree?

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