The media coverage given to the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, and the attention paid to Florida's "stand your ground" law, resulted in the legislature considering flaws in the law. They passed a reform bill that was signed by Governor Rick Scott yesterday, 20 June, 2014. From tallahassee.com:
The legislation, which marks one of the most significant changes to the state’s self-defense laws since the 2012 killing of teenager Trayvon Martin, was one of nearly 60 bills signed by Scott on Friday.The state mandatory sentencing law, the "10-20-life" law, was being used by some prosecutors to obtain plea bargains from people who had attempted to defend themselves, but had not shot anyone. The case of Marissa Alexander was one that caught the media attention. Marrisa claimed that she fired a shot that qualified under the "stand your ground" law, but a judge ruled otherwise. She faced a mandatory 10 years in jail.
The new law allows people to threaten the use of deadly force, even to the point of firing shots that do not hit anyone, to claim the "stand your ground" defense, and not be subject to the mandatory "10-20-life" sentencing. A similar law was passed in Arizona to ensure that the defensive display of a weapon would be legal.
The vast majority of defensive uses of firearms involve the display of the gun without a shot being fired, so it makes sense to clarify that less than lethal defensive uses are legitimate.
The Arizona law was passed because one of the first prosecutions of a person who had a concealed carry permit, involved a permit holder who defended themselves by displaying their defensive firearm. The aggressors in the case had also called the police after being thwarted in their attack. It is not uncommon for criminals to use the criminal justice system as a means of revenge. They often understand the system better than most citizens, and how to manipulate it to their advantage.
Fortunately, in the Arizona case, there was a third 911 call that was independent of the two involved parties. It confirmed the version of events given by the permit holder, but was not revealed by the prosecution until just before the trial was to begin.
The aggressors in the incident were never charged.
The reform signed into law by Governor Scott has a good chance of saving lives. It confirms that citizens have the legal option of using the deterrent effect of a firearm instead of a black and white choice of no use of the firearm or full use of deadly force. In this, it conforms to reality. Firearms are used for deterrence by defenders about 1000 times as often as they are used to kill. Most aggressors do not want to be shot, and most attacks stop when a firearm is displayed. Ensuring that law abiding citizens have and understand that option is a good thing.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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