Florida House passes ‘warning shot’ bill

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The Florida House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HB-89, a “warning shot” bill Thursday, allowing for a person to brandish a firearm or fire a warning shot when feeling threatened.

After two days of intense debate, the measure was approved 93-24, while the Senate tentatively approved a similar measure, according to the Bradenton Herald.

The bill was introduced by GOP state Rep. Neil Combee, in response to the notorious Marissa Alexander case. She received a 20-year sentence after being caught up in Florida’s 10-20-Life statute when she fired a warning shot to ward off her abusive estranged husband.

After serving 21 months, an appeals court granted Alexander a new trial.

Fort Lauderdale Democrat Rep. Perry Thurston sought unsuccessfully to use the bill as a vehicle to amend Florida’s “stand your ground” law, but the bill’s sponsor wouldn’t have it.

“The reason I got interested in this was not because I wanted to do anything with ‘stand your ground,'” Combee said, according to the Herald. “I didn’t want to repeal ‘stand your ground.’ I didn’t want to strengthen ‘stand your ground.’ ‘Stand your ground’ was not on my mind. Marissa Alexander was on my mind.”

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Although the Alexander case was the cause célèbre leading to the legislation, the facts that brought about her conviction aren’t as black-and-white as her supporters make them out.

Alexander drove to her estranged husband’s home where the couple eventually got into a fight. She extracted herself from her husband, went to her car, retrieved her weapon, returned to the house and fired the “warning shot” that resulted in her conviction.

Both Florida Carry and the National Rifle Association expressed support for the bill. However, that approval isn’t universally shared among all Second Amendment advocates.

Bob Owens, the editor of Bearing Arms, said in a December editorial that although he supports the idea of brandishing a weapon in response to a threat, any legislation allowing for a warning shot to be fired is “a dangerous bill that puts innocent lives downrange at risk.”

After having tentatively approved its own version of the measure Thursday, the Senate will cast its final vote on March 26.

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