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'Warning Shot Bill' gives leeway to charges made against people who threaten to use guns
PENSACOLA - Florida residents who threaten to use a gun or even fire a warning shot could avoid criminal prosecution under a law signed by Governor Rick Scott Friday.
House Bill 89 was inspired by Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman initially sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a shot near her husband during an argument.
Alexander tried to use the 'stand your ground' defense, but a judge rejected her claim.
She was sentenced under Florida's '10-20-Life' law which requires mandatory sentences for using a gun.
Alexander's now awaiting a new trial.
By mid to late 1999, the 10-20- life law aimed at reducing gun violence was in full swing.
Under the initial law, anyone who shows a gun during certain felonies receives an automatic 10 years in prison.
If a gun is fired, an automatic 20-years.
If someone is shot and wounded, 25 years to life in prison.
House Bill 89, commonly called the 'Warning Shot Bill', modifies the '10-20-Life' law by allowing some exceptions to the rule.
"I think it's opening the doors for irresponsibility, and people going in and blaming their recklessness on that law" said Greg Smith, Escambia County.
Under the new law, the court cannot impose minimum prison terms for aggravated assault convictions, if The defendant believed firing their gun was justified because of self-defense,
The defendant wasn't involved in any unlawful activity when the shot was fired,
Or they don't pose a threat to public safety.
Voters have mixed feelings about the changes.
"The more government gets involved, the more they mess things up" said Cecil Murphy, Escambia County.
"If they come on your property and you feel threatened, it is your right to protect you and your family, but some people will take that out of hand" said Leon Hull, Escambia County.
The Warning Shot Bill is one of nearly 60-bills signed by Governor Scott on Friday.