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Further on Guns and Florida Law; or Happiness is a Warm Gun

May 22, 2012

I came across an interesting piece in The Daily Beast, prompted of course by the Trayvon Martin killing, showing how easy it is to get a permit to carry a concealed firearm in Florida—something I had remarked upon previously.

But the discussion of the idiosyncrasies of Florida law on when a gun can be legally used—or not—was even more fascinating…and disconcerting.

The article quotes Jon Gutmacher, the gun- and taser-toting author of Florida Firearms:  Law, Use, and Ownership, as saying that:

“people don’t realize that absent an “imminent threat,” simply reaching for your handgun, or showing off that you are carrying it, is illegal. Brandishing a gun can get you charged with ‘aggravated assault,’ which carries a three-year minimum prison sentence.”

It goes on to observe:

“As for warning shots—fired into the air or at the ground—they are a legal no-no. In Florida a warning shot carries a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence.  The irony is that if Zimmerman had merely displayed his weapon to Martin, or if he had fired shots in the air, he could be subject to a lengthy prison term. But under Stand Your Ground, actually killing an unarmed person can, in some cases, be legal.”….

“Earlier this year, a Miami judge ruled it was a justifiable use of deadly force when a man chased down and stabbed a suspected thief to death, because the suspect had swung a bag of radios at the man’s head. In contrast, when a 31-year-old woman named Marissa Alexander fired a gun in her own home during an altercation with her husband, who no longer lived there, her Stand Your Ground defense claim was rejected….Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison, even though the round she fired injured no one.”

As University of Miami Law Professor Mary Anne Franks remarked to the Daily Beast author about the Stand Your Ground law, “Our laws are not written for clarity, but this is a particularly confusing statute.”

I’d say she definitely got that right.

Apparently the moral of the story is:  If you’re feeling threatened, shoot to kill.  Otherwise, you could go to jail.

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