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News Story
Updated: 01/22/2014 08:00:05AM

Warning shot law another step in wrong direction

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Pretty soon, Florida could be a haven for duelists who want to settle their differences.

That’s the path our lawmakers are taking as they prepare legislation to make it legal to draw a gun and fire a warning shot.

Already, Florida has a Stand Your Ground law that makes it legal to shoot someone if you feel threatened. That legislation was pushed through by lawmakers who failed to properly vet the law or its unforeseen consequences. It’s a case of group think where nobody bothered to raise objections because they wanted to toe the party line.

The reasoning behind both laws is obvious. We just feel the reasoning is skewed and shows a lack of confidence in a legal system charged with deciding if a person is acting in self defense. The court system worked for decades before someone decided we needed to protect people who want to take pot shots at others.

In a sense, the new warning shot bill is a no-brainer. If you can already legally shoot someone when you feel threatened, why would it be a problem if you just flashed your gun, or fired a warning shot? Of course, the key is that you are good enough with a firearm that a warning shot is just that — a warning.

The legislation was drawn up after a Jacksonville woman, Marissa Alexander, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot at her estranged husband. The sentence was mandated by Florida’s tough 10-20-Life law that makes it an automatic 20 years to life sentence for anyone discharging a gun while committing a crime.

An appeals court threw out Alexander’s sentence and she will have a new trial this year.

State Attorney Bill Cervone, who represents the Gainesville district, said lawmakers were only hearing one side of the case. He said people who are in prison were put there by a judge and jury after they claimed self-defense. He agreed with our thinking that a judge and jury should be able to determine the truth — and we have faith that our judicial system works.

Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, the bill’s sponsor, disagrees. He said Floridians have a right to defend themselves and that includes brandishing a firearm and even shooting at the person they believe is threatening them.

Evers brought up the case of a 74-year-old man in the Panhandle who was sentenced to prison because he had a shotgun visible during a confrontation.

Cervone countered with the logic that perhaps the crime of aggravated assault should be removed from the list of crimes drawing a mandatory 10-20-Life sentence.

When the Legislature convenes, this bill will surely get plenty of attention.

Florida already has garnered national attention after the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.

If our lawmakers insist on leaning toward legalizing the use of firearms in confrontations then the best idea may be to legalize duels and charge a fee to attend. The money could be used for education.

At least some good would come out of all the shootings.


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