TALLAHASSEE, Fla. A bill allowing a person to fire a warning shot at an attacker without penalty is waiting for the Governor’s signature. But, a group that protects first amendment rights is asking the Governor to veto the measure because you might never know who has fired a shot.
The warning shot bill passed both the House and the Senate. But First Amendment Foundation president Barbara Peterson says what’s not in the bill is its biggest problem. “There will be no record of what happened or how it happened or why it happened and that’s a great concern.”
The bill allows for all records to be expunged if someone who fires a warning shot is found innocent. Petersen says it could lead to a laundry list of other issues that would go undetected. “Misdeeds, prosecutorial misconduct, law enforcement misconduct, a bad investigation, an unlawful arrest.”
Most of the Senate debate on the warning shot bill focused on the expungement of records.
Senator Chris Smith tried to amend the bill to keep the data from getting thrown out. “It’s the wrong thing, it’s the wrong thing to get rid of these records. I want to be able to track this. I want to have all the evidence out there.”
Former Sheriff and current Senator Charles Dean disagreed. “Clearly if you’re innocent, that should automatically expunge your name and you shouldn’t have to defend your name for the rest of your life.”
The amendment failed and the bill passed with the expungement provision. Petersen and the first amendment foundation have sent a letter to the Governor’s office asking for a veto.
If the bill is presented to the Governor while lawmakers are still in session, he’ll have 7 days to sign it. If it’s outside of session, he’ll have 15 days.