An architect of Florida's 2005 "stand your ground" law says a bill passed by lawmakers this session is too confusing and could prevent people in their homes or vehicles from legally defending themselves.
"Unfortunately, in attempting to improve this excellent law, HB 89 inadvertently creates ambiguities and potentially reduces important protections for Florida's citizens," said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.
As a state House representative in 2005, Simmons was the main drafter of "stand your ground." Contacted by a reporter about HB 89, the "warning shot" bill, he echoed concerns similar to ones raised earlier this week by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Simmons said the new legislation may require that, in order to use deadly force, those in their homes must first be attacked, and that they must conclude that the threat of death or bodily harm is "imminent." Currently, people are justified in using deadly force in their homes if they believe it's necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.
The bill, passed April 3, it has yet to reach Gov. Scott's desk, but concerns raised by Gualtieri and Simmons, both pro-gun rights Republicans who support "stand your ground," are an unexpected twist.
Much of the bill's appeal was because it aimed to prevent cases like Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who faces up to 60 years in prison after firing a shot to ward off her estranged husband. A 1999 law, "10-20-Life", requires a 20-year sentence for anyone firing a gun while committing a felony, and an additional 20 years for each person present when the gun is fired.
Gualtieri said the bill weakens the "stand your ground" law that groups like Florida Carry and the National Rifle Association are supposed to uphold.
Both groups who helped draft the bill stand by the legislation. "Obviously, we're not going to do something that impedes your right to defend yourself in your home," said Sean Caranna, executive director of Florida Carry. "The staffs from all of the committees that looked at this bill, all of the attorneys who looked at this bill, disagree (with Gualtieri and Simmons)."
Longtime NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer didn't return repeated phone calls, but she's been a strong defender of the bill.