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Florida bill would allow warning shots against attackers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Feb. 28 (UPI) -- A bill filed in the Florida Legislature would expand the state's "stand your ground" law, allowing people to fire warning shots when attacked, supporters say.

The bill's sponsor, Republican state Rep. Neil Combee, said the bill is an attempt to "get some protection for the people who find themselves in a bad spot and don't want to shoot somebody," the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported Thursday.

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"As it stands right now in 'stand your ground,' you have to shoot somebody," Combee added.

The proposal was born after the conviction of Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, who fired a warning shot during an alleged domestic violence incident. An appeals court overturned her 20-year sentence and she faces a new trial.

RELATED Ohio House set to act on expanded 'stand-your-ground' bill

Most cities in the United States prohibit warning shots out of concern about the danger to bystanders.

The bill, which passed out of a House committee on a 15-2 vote, faces opposition in Florida's upper legislative chamber.

"It's encouraging more violence, the same as 'stand your ground' encourages escalation rather than de-escalation of violence, by taking away the responsibility to try to retreat," said Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chris Smith.

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Brian Malte, senior policy director for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said the bill was an example of how the National Rifle Association used Florida as a testing ground for new gun laws.

"It seems like throughout the years they've been using Florida as the legislative laboratory for what we would call the 'guns anytime, anywhere, anyplace' mantra," he said.

Marion Hammer, the NRA's Florida lobbyist, said the warning-shot bill was not authored by her organization, but the NRA supported it.

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