The “10-20-Life” law in Florida, a creation of former Governor Jeb Bush, dictates mandatory sentences for shooting a firearm while committing a felony. It isn’t working to deter gun violence; but rather than get rid of the harsh-yet-ineffective law, local Republicans simply want to make an exception for people who wield a weapon in supposed self-defense.
The new allowances, supported by the NRA, would mimic the Stand Your Ground law made famous in the Trayvon Martin case.
The new proposal is in response to the case of Jacksonville woman Marissa Alexander, who was given a 20-year prison sentence for shooting a gun during a domestic quarrel.
Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, filed the new measure, dubbed the "Defense of Life, Home and Property Act." This is the second time he has proposed the bill, which earlier failed to pass committee.
Said Combee of the Alexander case, "Nobody was hurt, yet she’s facing 20 years behind bars. There’s other people that do all kinds of damage to others and don’t get sentences like that."
House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala said, "I’m very hesitant to change anything in 10-20-Life, except that I’ve run into this more than once, where constituents have gotten into this narrow space where they were trying truly to avoid a conflict by a warning shot, and instead wound up charged and having to plead to a felony of lesser degree to avoid a prison sentence because they just were afraid to face a jury."
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer noted that under current law, Alexander probably would have walked free if she had shot her husband during the dispute rather than firing a warning.
Said Hammer, "In firing a warning shot — that didn’t harm anyone — you should not end up in jail for 20 years. That is not what self-defense is all about, and that is not what our criminal justice system should be about. That’s not justice."
Perhaps not, but is the solution then to condone shooting a gun when faced with the smallest threat?