|DATE:||June 1, 2017|
|TO:||USF & NRA Member and Friends|
|FROM:||Marion P. Hammer|
|USF Executive Director|
|NRA Past President|
The critical self-defense bill/burden of proof bill has not yet reached the Governor's desk but already prosecutors and anti-gun organizations are lobbying the Governor to veto SB-128 Burden of Proof.
SB-128 Burden of Proof by Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Bobby Payne restores the presumption of innocence in self-defense cases by putting the burden of proof BACK ON THE STATE where it belongs.
Please use the following email address to contact the Governor and ask him to Please Sign SB-128 Burden of Proof.
Below is a news article by Bill Cotterell, a Tallahassee Democrat columnist that injects some common sense and truth into the issue.
Cotterell: Don't panic, gun critics have been wrong before
Bill Cotterell, Democrat correspondent 10:56 a.m. ET June 1, 2017
A road rage incident down near Disney almost six years ago resulted in a major piece of gun legislation awaiting Gov. Rick Scott's signature, in this year's edition of a firearms panic.
It seems that almost every legislative session produces one. Recently, it's been the "guns on campus" bills, aimed at letting concealed-weapon permit holders carry their weapons on college campuses. That one has failed in the past few sessions but it's going to pass — probably sooner, rather than later.
This year's gun fright started with a family driving in Osceola County in 2011, when a driver almost sideswiped them and the driver "stared at them in a threatening manner," subsequent court papers said. That driver aggressively swerved in front of them, slammed on the brakes, jumped out and advanced toward their car — whereupon the tourist driver held up a holstered pistol.
The other guy, who was unarmed, returned to his truck, and it should have ended there. But another family member jumped from the back seat of the car with another gun and pointed it at the man in the truck, who called 911. So did the vacationing family and some passers-by.
When the cops arrived, they charged the gun-pointing man with aggravated assault with a firearm. He claimed immunity under Florida's "stand your ground" law, but lost in court.
Which brings us to Senate Bill 128. The man pointing the gun in that case — presumably to keep the alleged aggressor at the scene until police arrived — had the burden of proving that he was defending himself and others from likely death, injury or other criminal abuse.
It sounds like a common-sense defense but, you know — lawyers.
So now the Legislature, at the behest of the National Rifle Association and other organizations generally described as Second Amendment defenders, has voted to shift the proof burden to the state in "stand your ground" cases. Assuming Scott signs the bill into law — which is about as iffy as assuming President Trump will not dump Melania and elope with Rosie O'Donnell — state attorneys will have to prove, in future pretrial hearings, that defendants are not legally standing their grounds, or defending their castles, against attackers.
The Legislature approved the change by roughly party-line votes, 74-39 in the House and 23-15 in the Senate. State attorneys want Scott to veto the bill, because they've got the law the way they like it and don't want to change. Public defenders feel the other way, because they'd like any legal advantage than can get.
What's lost in the discussion is that the bill will not free a bunch of murderers. If you stick up a liquor store and the clerk pulls a gun, so you shoot at him, you can't claim self-defense. You started it.
In fact, the words "stand your ground" don't even appear in the short statute bearing that name.
What does appear is language saying you can't legally use force to defend yourself against a cop who is properly detaining you. And "SYG" doesn't apply to anyone committing a criminal act, like a drug dealer safeguarding a stash, or robbing a competitor.
If the bill becomes law, it probably will result in more shooters claiming "justifiable use of force." When you're facing a murder charge, why grasp at anything? When there are no witnesses, or the physical evidence is inconclusive, this will probably lead to some guilty people getting off.
But is that worse than what we have now — innocent, or maybe-innocent, people having to choose between a prosecutor's offer of three-to-10 on a plea deal, or risking 25-to-life, if they go to trial?
This is an old argument. It's interesting that the voices calling for a veto have been wrong before.
In 1987, when legislators passed the "concealed carry" law, they warned that Florida would become the wild, wild West. It wouldn't be safe to go outside, if law-abiding citizens were licensed to pack pistols in their pockets — and never mind that criminals already conceal their guns.
Well, that didn't happen.
And in 2005, when they passed the "stand your ground" law, we heard it again. You could shoot the Avon lady. Panicky people would fire first, figure it out later, and walk free — and never mind that the law says you must have a reasonable belief that you or others are in imminent danger, before using justifiable force.
Well, that didn't happen, either.
Bill Cotterell is a retired Tallahassee Democrat reporter who writes a twice-weekly column. He can be contacted at [email protected].