On Tuesday, a proposal to expand Stand Your Ground immunity was adopted by the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee. Last year, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida House rejected a bill to repeal the state’s Stand Your Ground law and voted to expand it instead.
The new bill, which would expand immunity from both criminal and civil charges, has been nicknamed the “warning shot” bill and the “threatened force” bill, ThinkProgress reports. It would extend immunity to individuals who point a gun at an attacker or fire a warning shot.
The “Threatened Use of Force” amendment simply expands the vague defense that Stand Your Ground provides, which has allowed for vigilantes and unstable individuals like George Zimmerman to get away with murdering unarmed victims.
Before the vote occurred, the National Rifle Association (NRA) published a press release and op-ed on the amendment, praising Florida’s proposal to eliminate the state’s mandatory minimums. “People make mistakes and do irrational things when in fear of death or injury,” wrote former NRA president Marion Hammer. “That doesn’t mean they should go to prison for 20 years when there was no injury or harm done.”
“What the NRA’s press release and op-ed don’t mention is that the bill doesn’t just remove mandatory sentences for those who would be convicted of gun and violence-related crimes,” writes Nicole Flatow. “It also removes all criminal and civil liability for those who successfully invoke the defense… potentially opening the door for more judicial rulings of the sort we have already seen that excuse fatal shootings of unarmed victims.”
The amendment was first proposed in November and its adoption comes during the second most well-known Stand Your Ground trial in Florida. The murder trial of Michael Dunn started on Tuesday, in which Dunn is expected to invoke the Stand Your Ground defense for fatally shooting an unarmed teenager in his car.
In November 2012, 46-year-old Dunn pulled into a convenience store parking lot next to an SUV with 4 teenagers, including Jordan Russell Davis. Dunn exchanged words with Davis over the teens’ loud music and the situation ended with Dunn opening fire on the SUV, killing Davis in the process. Dunn claims the teens had a weapon and testified that he feared for his life. No weapons were found on Davis or in the SUV.
Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.