This arrived around 2 a.m. Saturday from Florida Carry. There is no doubt you will be hearing a lot about this legislation next week.
Florida Carry Bill to Protect People Who Act in Self-Defense from Prosecution
Florida Carry has submitted a “Defense of Life, Home, & Property” bill to the Florida legislature for consideration. In the Senate, this bill is called SB 1446 and is being sponsored by Sen. Thad Altman. On the House side, the bill is called HB 1047 and is being sponsored by Rep. Neil Combee.
The bill comprises two main initiatives. The first is a defensive display provision, aimed at decriminalizing the act of displaying a firearm in order to deter an assailant. Currently, a law-abiding citizen who refers to, shows, or draws a firearm in an attempt to scare off an attacker faces arrest and prosecution under Florida law. As many firearms instructors will attest, shooting one’s attacker in clear cut self-defense situations often results in less of a legal liability than scaring him off by displaying the firearm. This has resulted in the unwarranted “shoot first” reputation Florida has garnered in the anti-gun press.
Dr. Gary Kleck, noted researcher at Florida State University has found that in the majority of defensive gun uses, the gun is never fired. Upon the sight of an armed citizen, the criminal most often flees. However, Florida prosecutors have made this a crime. They have argued that the display of the weapon was an aggravated assault, and because the criminal was not given a chance to actually injure a victim and thus display his criminal intent, the display of a firearm was not lawful self-defense. When the victim displays a firearm, the criminal retreats, calls 911, and proceeds to tell his version of the facts first, while the citizen is still calming down from the threatening encounter. The state attorney reviews the case, and because no violence actually occurred between the parties, because of the defensive display, the state charges the real victim with a crime. The absurd result here is that incidents that could be prevented by the defensive display of the firearm instead lead to a shooting, and possibly a death. Florida Carry’s defensive display language will allow persons who have the right to use force, but not necessarily deadly force, the ability to display their firearm in self-defense. Such a change by the Legislature will avoid some self-defense shooting cases and turn them into cases where no shots are fired, or at most a warning shot is used to protect the innocent. Then a person will not have to deal with the mental toll of taking a human life in order to avoid charges for aggravated assault.
The second initiative is an exception in the 10-20-LIFE sentencing mandate for cases in which self-defense is found to be the intent of the accused. While the intent of 10-20-LIFE was to discourage firearm use in criminal enterprises, it has been used very differently. Prosecutors now seek to apply 10-20-LIFE even when there is no other underlying crime. This means that a person who attempts to act in self-defense, but is judged later to have not done so properly, or made some other mistake, is treated not as a law-abiding citizen who showed a weapon mistakenly, but as a person with the criminal intent to use a weapon to further their crime. These laws also increase the felony level of the offense charged based on the fact a firearm was used, even if it is used in a case of good faith self-defense.
The other problem with the current minimum mandatory laws is the imposition of an enhanced sentence based on the number of rounds a gun’s magazine holds. This is another example of unintended consequences. The law was passed in large part to stories of combat drug traffickers who were using larger capacity magazines. While there is no clear evidence of this happening except in the movies, the legislature felt that the use of larger magazines by criminals should allow for a sentencing enhancement. The additional penalty is twenty years instead of three. Florida Carry’s bill simply restores sentencing discretion to the presiding judge under very limited circumstances involving evidence of self-defense and clarifies language defining “unlawful activity” by which a person’s sentence could be subject to mandatory minimums and a denial of their right to self-defense.
The bill sponsors and Florida Carry asks our members and supporters to write, send e-mails, and call their state representatives to urge the widest possible support of HB 1047. Please help us help you. Call or write as soon as possible in order to move this bill along through committee assignments so it meets the full House before this year’s legislative session comes to a close. Particularly ask that the chairs of the committees to which the bills have been assigned allow the bills to come before the committees so that they may be considered.