JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - There’s a new bill gaining traction in the Florida House that would amend the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law and allow people to display guns, threaten to use them, or fire so-called “warning shots” if they were being attacked and feared for their lives.
Written by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Polk City), the “Threatened Use of Force Act” is a follow-up to a bill he sponsored last year that died in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Known as the “Defense of Life, Home, and Property Act,” that bill would’ve amended Florida’s 10-20-Life law, which requires mandatory-minimum prison terms for gun-related crimes.
But last week the “Threatened Use of Force Act,” which many people now refer to as the “warning shot” bill, passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee by a 12 to 1 vote.
“I think this opens a Pandora’s Box,” Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford tells WOKV’s Gene Wexler in an exclusive interview. “People can pull guns with immunity? I think that’s a bad, bad move.”
Rutherford says he believes the warning-shot bill would lead to people pulling guns in unnecessary situations.
“It’s gonna make prosecution much more difficult,” he says. “I think what will happen is the dopers and the people who are carrying guns illegally out there on the street are gonna start pulling them more often. And when the police get there they’re gonna say, ‘Well, I was defending myself.’ And that’s a problem.”
He says the self-defense laws in place now are just fine.
“I don’t know anyone that’s being prosecuted for improper display or aggravated assault when the circumstances are clear to a reasonable person that the person was actually trying to defend themselves,” he says.
Rutherford also agrees with State Attorney Angela Corey who says that there is “no such thing as a warning shot.”
“Those bullets are comin’ down somewhere,” Rutherford says. “We teach police officers you do not fire warning shots ever…ever. We don’t fire warning shots.”
Rep. Neil Combee says he sponsored the bill last year after learning about the case of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who was sentenced to 20 years under the 10-20-Life law for firing a gun into a wall during a dispute with her husband. Her two stepchildren were in the room at the time.
Rutherford says many people have misunderstood the case, thinking that Alexander fired a “warning shot” into the wall.
“The fact in that case is she didn’t fire a warning shot,” Rutherford says. “She tried to shoot him. She tried to kill him.
“And she missed.”