CREDIT: Moms Demand Action
Tuesday morning, the lawyer for Michael Dunn starts the first full day of his defense in the murder trial for his fatal shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, in what is likely the most prominent Florida Stand Your Ground case since Trayvon Martin. But while Dunn and his lawyer are invoking the language of the Stand Your Ground law to argue that he shot the seemingly unarmed teen in self-defense, a state Senate panel will take up a bill Tuesday morning to expand Florida’s already-expansive self-defense law.
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law grants immunity from both criminal and civil charges to those who use deadly force anywhere they have a legal right to be without any duty to first attempt retreat, if they can show that they had a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm or death. The law has been cited by many defendants who appear to have been exercising vigilantism — turning to their guns before first attempting to call the police or walk away. In Florida alone, at least 26 children and teens and 134 individuals overall have died in Stand Your Ground cases since the law’s passage. While moves to repeal failed in November, another bill to instead expand the law is advancing rapidly.
The new bill has been dubbed a “warning shot” bill, and now a “threatened force” bill, and it would extend Stand Your Ground-like immunity from both criminal and civil charges to those who point a gun at an attacker or fire a gun as a self-defense threat or warning. The provision easily cleared a House committee in November, and will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning.
In anticipation of the vote, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s “The Gun Writer” blog posted an item Tuesday that, verbatim, published a National Rifle Association press release on the bill and accompanying op-ed. The National Rifle Association and Republicans backing the bill are capitalizing on provisions that roll back the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing scheme, known as “10-20-life” to garner support. “People make mistakes and do irrational things when in fear of death or injury. That doesn’t mean they should go to prison for 20 years when there was no injury or harm done,” reads the re-posted op-ed by past NRA President Marion P. Hammer.
What the NRA’s press release and op-ed don’t mention is that the bill doesn’t just remove mandatory minimum sentences for those who would be convicted of gun and violence-related crimes; it also removes all criminal and civil liability for those who successfully invoke the defense in as vague and sweeping a manner as the original Stand Your Ground law, potentially opening the door for more judicial rulings of the sort we have already seen that excuse fatal shootings of unarmed victims.