On Thursday, March 20, 2104, the Florida House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (93-24) in approval of HB-89 (the so-called “warning shot” bill), and HB-7029 (the so-called “Pop-Tart” bill).

These developments are reported in the Bradenton Herald, and other news sources (h/t to commenter pjm–thanks!).

The Florida Senate has not yet taken a full vote on its parallel “warning shot” version of the House bill (SB-448), but their bill has easily passed their Criminal Justice committee (5-0), Judiciary committee (9-0), and Rules committee (12-1, and which made some modest changes to conform with the House bill).  The full state senate is scheduled to vote on SB-448 next Wednesday.

We have previously covered this “warning shot” bill in some detail here Florida “Warning Shot” Bill Advances, as well as exploring how a “warning shot” had nothing whatever to do with the Marissa Alexander case (Angela Corey Reminds FL Legislators of Facts of Marissa Alexander Case and The Myth of Marissa Alexander’s “Warning Shot”) and fisking a hilariously error-filled post on the bill by Adam Weinstein over at Gawker (Gawker analyzes Florida’s “Warning Shot” bill, implosion follows).

This local news story is a good example of how the media misunderstands and misreports the nature of the “warning shot” bill:

So-Called “Warning Shot” Bill Never Mentions Phrase “Warning Shot”

It should come as no surprise, of course, to learn that the bill has nothing in particular to do with “warning shots.”  Indeed, neither the phrase “warning shot,” nor the words “warning” or “shot” appear anywhere in the bill.

Rather, the bill–entitled “Threatened Use of Force”–is intended to provide the same kinds of legal justifications to the mere threat of force in lawful self-defense as are offered in the context of the actual use of force in lawful self-defense.  Some prosecutors had apparently argued that the plain text of Florida’s self-defense law provided for legal justification, and freedom from criminal liability, only for the use but not for the mere threat of force.

This bill is intended to clarify this issue.

Effort to Amend Bill to Repeal Stand-Your-Ground Fails

It should also come as no surprise that several urban legislators chose to use this most recent House vote to try to amend the bill so as to repeal Florida’s extremely popular Stand-Your-Ground law.

Under Stand-Your-Ground there is no legal duty to retreat before a crime victim may use deadly force in self-defense if the following conditions are met:  the person is the victim of crime and not the aggressor, (2) the threat is imminent and otherwise unavoidable (other than by retreat), (3) the threat is one of death or grave bodily harm (e.g., rape), and (4) your perceptions and actions were both subjectively and objectively reasonable.

Opponents of “Stand-Your-Ground” Seek Lengthy Prison Sentences for Crime Victims

Opponents to Stand-Your-Ground wish to impose long prison sentences upon crime victims who meet all four of  conditions if those crime victims failed to take advantage of a purportedly safe avenue of retreat before using deadly force in self-defense.  Their “soap box” efforts to repeal Stand-Your-Ground yesterday in the Florida House were, as anticipated, rejected.

A large majority of states–34–are effectively Stand-Your-Ground jurisdictions in that they impose no generalized duty to retreat anywhere a crime victim has a right to be, with Alaska becoming the most recent Stand-Your-Ground state just this past September.  Other states, such as Ohio, have Stand-Your-Ground bills working through their legislatures.  No Stand-Your-Ground state has reverted to a “duty-to-retreat” status in decades, whereas more than a dozen duty-to-retreat states have become Stand-Your-Ground over that same time period.

Florida House Overwhelmingly Passes “Pop-Tart” Bill

Separately , a second gun bill also passed by a large majority (98-17), and this one with little debate.  Termed the “Pop-Tart” bill, HB-7029 would prevent schools from levying punishment on children for playing with simulated guns or wearing clothing that depicts guns.

The bill’s nickname derives from a Maryland incident in which a 7-year-old was suspended from school for purportedly having chewed his Pop-Tart pastry in to the rough outline of a handgun.  This bill attracted support from both gun-friendly Republican legislators as well as Democrats who have been critical of “zero tolerance” policies they believe are unfairly imposed on their constituents children in Florida’s public schools.

Here is the full text of HB-89, the so-called “warning shot” bill:

Here is the full text of HB-78029, the so-called “Pop-Tart” bill:

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog, Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.


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