Sunday, January 12, 2014

Be prepared for the usual suspects to wail and cry about a 'Warning Shots' bill

in Florida.  It's not, but they'll call it that.
In fact, neither SB 448 nor HB 89 have any mention of “warning shots” whatever.  They are, in fact, really merely efforts to fix an apparent glitch in Florida’s current self-defense law framework (hence their overwhelming support).

A close reading of Florida’s various self-defense statutes — including 776.012 Defense of Persons, 776.013 Home Protection, and 776.031 Defense of Others, and 776.032 Immunity — can result in the interpretation that they address only the actual use of force against another, and not the mere threat of the use of such force.

This has resulted in cases where a person who has merely threatened the use of force — e.g, displaying a defensive firearm to an attacker — finds himself with less legal justification than if he had taken the next step of actually using that force–e.g., shooting their attacker.  The seeming result would be to encourage the use of deadly force, even in circumstances where the use of such force could have been avoided.
There have now been numerous Florida cases in which a well-intentioned defender fired a “warning shot” in self-defense, found himself charged with aggravated assault, convicted, and sentenced to a mandatory 20-year-sentence.  In many of these cases, there was clearly no intent to cause anyone harm, and the defender sincerely believed the firing of the “warning shot” was the best means of reducing the risk of violence to all involved.  It seems bizarre in such cases that the defender could have potentially avoided  legal liability entirely if they had instead elected to shoot and kill their attacker rather than fire a “warning shot.”

The parallel SB 448/HB 89 bills seek to correct this situation by stepping through each of Florida’s self-defense statutes and replacing each use of “use of force” with the phrase “use or threatened use of force”.

Note that this would cover ANY threatened use of force, ranging from mere verbal threats to — in theory — warning shots, although neither bill makes any effort to define “threatened force” nor references “warning shots” in particular. In particular, these bills DO NOT in any way “authorize” the firing of warning shots.
Which means MDA and MAIG and all the others will be sending out fundraising/scare the people letters saying it DOES say that.

No comments: