Fla. lawmakers discuss 10-20-Life law

By Scott Johnson, General assignment reporter, sjohnson@wjxt.com
Published On: Nov 07 2013 04:41:34 PM EST
Updated On: Nov 07 2013 09:13:06 PM EST
Gun

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

State lawmakers met Thursday afternoon in Tallahassee to discuss the controversial "stand your ground" law. Part of the discussion was about altering the 10-20-Life law so someone can protect themselves with a gun without using deadly force.

It's been an ongoing argument in Florida: Shoot to kill or shoot to warn? The choice may allow you to walk free or spend years behind bars at a state prison.

"We don't want laws to tell society that you shoot and kill somebody to make sure you don't have to go to jail, because a dead man can't talk," said Trayvon Martin's family attorney Ben Crump.

The consequences of firing but not killing came to light in the case of Marissa Alexander, the Jacksonville woman who fired a warning shot at her husband.

A judge determined Alexander's case was not a "Stand Your Ground" case, but instead was sentenced to 20 years for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

RELATED: Bond hearing, trial date set for Marissa Alexander

Right now, if you pull a gun, it's a mandatory ten years in prison. Fire it and it's 20 years.

Based on the Alexander case, a Governor's task force recommended changing the law.

Two main options were discussed Thursday; One, being pitched by Democrats is to throw out the law all together. That option failed in Tallahassee Thursday. The other option would change the law to allow warning shots to be fired.

State Rep. Neil Combee said there should by a way to protect yourself without killing someone.

"Shoot to kill is a bad idea," said Combee. "I think that most people, I think it's human nature most people don't want to shoot anybody."

State prosecutors don't want the 10-20-Life law changed, but police agencies are open to change.

"Twenty years for people who really haven't physically harmed anybody, you start thinking, 'Man, we need to find a way from preventing this from happening,'" Combee said.

Channel 4's crime analyst Ken Jefferson said he was surprised by the idea of allowing warning shots in the law.

"I'm totally against it, simply because you're playing with your life. That person could possibly take that weapon away because you're not using it, you're firing a warning," Jefferson said. "It could also take that weapon, fire it in the air, it could come down somewhere, hit an innocent victim.

One change to "stand your ground" that will soon be determined will allow gun owners to display a firearm in self-defense. Right now, if gun owners display their firearms, unless they feel their lives are in danger, they will be prosecuted. If this part of the law passes, people will be allowed to display their guns as a form of self-defense, even if their lives are not in danger.

Channel 4's Scott Johnson also spoke with the lead counsel for Florida Carry, a gun right's group, Eric Friday, by phone Thursday night. Friday was at the hearings in Tallahassee on Thursday.

"Today is a huge win for gun owners, and for people who believe in the basic human rights of self-defense," said Friday.

A Senate committee has already passed minor changes to stand your ground, but it did not address 10-20-Life changes.

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