TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Senate approved the so-called warning shot bill Thursday, and the legislation now heads to Gov. Rick Scott.
The bill, which passed 32-7, has garnered attention because of the case of Marissa Alexander, sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a gun near her estranged husband during an altercation in Jacksonville. She is out on bail and awaiting a new trial.
The legislation - sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers, a Republican from Pensacola - addresses the "10-20-life" sentencing law in self-defense cases. Passed in 1999, the law requires lengthy sentences for specific felony firearm convictions.
The new bill allows for the threatened use of force without falling under the rule of "10-20-life."
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer and supporters say 10-20-life wasn't intended to be used in self-defense cases.
"This is an important bill because it stops the abuse of 10-20-life and keeps prosecutors from using it against people who use lawful self-defense," Hammer said. "10-20-life is not about self-defense. Self-defense is a constitutional right. 10-20-life was passed to stop prosecutors and judges from slapping gun-wielding criminals on the wrist and giving them reduced sentences or probation."
Opponents of the proposed changes worry they will encourage more people to fire shots.
"There's two magic words the public's going to hear - warning shot," Sen. Chris Smith, R-Fort Lauderdale, said. "I just don't think it's responsible right now to encourage people to give warning shots - in the air, in a crowd or wherever."
Evers opposes the phrasing "warning shot" and emphasized that the bill is all about self-defense.
"This bill, if you read it, does not say anything about a warning shot," Evers said. "What this bill does, it says, if you are threatened you can use equal or threatened use of force to protect yourself.
"This is about self-defense. This is about the right thing to do."
The final stop for the bill is Scott's desk.
"Governor Scott supports the Second Amendment and Florida's self-defense laws," spokesman John Tupps said. "He looks forward to reviewing this legislation in its entirety now that it has been approved by both the House and the Senate."
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