Bills aimed at changing Florida's gun laws

Lawmakers set to hear dozens of bills during 60-day session

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - As a new legislative session begins, committees will hear dozens of bills, some of those proposals would change Florida's current gun laws.

With Marissa Alexander, Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman's trials on the minds of many, Florida's "stand your ground" law is being put under the microscope.

""Stand your ground' is fine the way it is," said lead counsel for Florida Carry, Eric Friday.

Friday told Channel 4 that the problem is not with the law but the fact that some people are failing to recognize what the law does.

"Some law enforcement officers don't like the idea of self-defense and will do everything they can to hold responsible the citizen who was attacked by a violent criminal," said Friday.

Jacksonville attorney John Phillips disagrees. He is not sure how "stand your ground" could be changed, but points to the previous Florida law, which states that a person who could safely turn back should.

"It's not saying that every rape victim or every potential victim of violence must retreat. It's saying if you can get out of there, consistent with your own safety, you need to do so," said Phillips.

Another bill lawmakers will look at Tuesday is the so-called "warning shot" bill. If passed, it would give a defendant a legal defense if they were found by the court to have fired a warning shot. Some say the bill was inspired by the Marissa Alexander case, who was found guilty of firing three shots in the direction of her estranged husband and his children in 2012.

"It's needed to mark clear that people who, in a traumatic moment of their lives, feel the need to fire a warning shot because they don't want to take a life, shouldn't be treated as if they were trying to take a life," said Phillips.

Alexander was initially offered a plea deal in the 2012 case against her, but she refused that deal. Instead, Alexander was convicted on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 20 years behind bars under Florida's mandatory sentencing laws.

Alexander's case was overturned on appeal, but she is being retried, and under new interpretation of the 10-20-Life sentencing statute, she could be sentenced to 60 years if found guilty.

One bill to be considered this session would allow flexibility for sentencing in gun crime cases when there is a claim of self-defense.

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