Florida’s prosecutors are not opposing the bill, but that did not prevent a testy exchange between State Attorney Bill Cervone and bill sponsor Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, over the legislation.
Cervone objected to anecdotes used during the committee hearing about prosecutors going after Floridians who brandished a gun. Cervone, who represents the judicial circuit that includes Gainesville, told legislators they were “only hearing from folks who are one side of this.” He said if someone is in prison, it was after a jury and judge rejected the claim of “self-defense.”
That drew a stern rebuke from Evers, who told Cervone that the bill “speaks loudly” and says “this Legislature will not put up with folks who are using their lawful right to display a gun or fire a warning shot.” Evers then recounted a story about a 74-year-old retired man in the Panhandle who was given a sentence because he had a shotgun visible.
Cervone said a better approach may be to remove aggravated assault from the list of offenses that draws a mandatory minimum sentence.
Some Senate Democrats said they still have concerns about the legislation. Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, said he wants to make sure that legislators don’t go too far and start “encouraging people” to show or shoot firearms. Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said legislators should instead give more discretion to judges instead of changing the state’s gun laws.