Florida considers clarifying Stand Your Ground

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Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014 5:16 pm

SARASOTA, Fla. - The controversy surrounding Florida's "Stand Your Ground” law has grown exponentially since the Trayvon Martin case brought national attention to the law in 2012.

In an effort to prevent misinterpretation of the law, the Florida legislature is in the process of passing new bills. This week, the senate's Criminal Justice committee unanimously supported changes to the law.

The warning shot bill (HB 89) was approved in the House Thursday. It also addresses the "10-20-life" in self-defense cases.

“The way the law is written right now, you basically have the right to pull out a gun, and whatever happens, happens. And then insert the Stand Your Ground defense," says Trevor Harvey, president of the Sarasota County NAACP.

To make clarifications to the law, the House is voting on the "Warning Shot Bill." This bill, referred to as House Bill 89, also addresses "10-20-Life" in self-defense cases, which requires lengthy sentences for specific felony firearm convictions.

"What this bill does, is it allows you to show the gun or even fire a warning shot, which potentially could have gotten you ten or twenty mandatory years before. And now it includes that within Stand Your Ground law," says Joe Gruters, of the Republican Party of Sarasota.

Legislators also made a change this week, granting a person who successfully uses a Stand Your Ground defense a petition to have records related to the arrest removed. "The reason why it's a good law, is because if someone's trying to break into your house, or somebody's threatening you, you want to be able to defend yourself," says Gruters.

For that very reason, some agree with the clarification of the law. "If you do have a gun, and someone does invade your home, I think you do have certainly the option of sending off a warning shot," says resident Carol Carzon.

But there are still those who oppose Stand Your Ground altogether. Sarasota's NAACP says they want to see the law repealed. "When you still have the basis of the Stand Your Ground law, written the way it's written…we already have self-defense laws in the book. We don't need it. It's just, it's dangerous," says Harvey.

There are locals who believe the bills will not help. "I think it just gives people another excuse to shoot a gun," says resident Martha Norris.

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