Gawker Got Literally Everything Wrong About Florida's New Warning Shots Bill

Families Against Mandatory Minimums, not the NRA, helped craft bill

January 18, 2014

The viral content blog Gawker published an article Friday headlined: "The NRA Literally Wrote Florida’s New Bill to Legalize Warning Shots." However, a brief investigation by the Free Beacon revealed that the NRA literally did not write Florida’s new bill to legalize warning shots.

The Florida legislature is considering expanding the state’s "stand your ground" law to encompass "threatened use of force." Specifically, the bill is intended to shield those who brandish a gun or fire a warning shot in self-defense from the state’s 10-20-Life law, which imposes mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for felony crimes involving a firearm.

Gawker reporter Adam Weinstein wrote Friday that Marion Hammer, a former NRA president and lobbyist for the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, was responsible for writing and pushing the bill.

In an interview with the Free Beacon, Hammer said that was not the case.

"We did not write it," Hammer said. "It’s Families Against Mandatory Minimum’s bill, and my understanding is that Greg Newburn and his staff wrote it. They just came to us and asked if we’d endorse the bill."

Greg Newburn, the Florida director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), corroborated Hammer’s story.

"Marion is correct," Newburn said via email. "I asked for her help in reforming 10-20-Life, and she's been tremendously helpful in that effort. But the NRA had nothing to do with writing the original bill."

FAMM is a nonprofit organization that advocates for state and federal sentencing reform, specifically the repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

FAMM and the NRA, among others, argue that losing a self-defense case in court shouldn’t automatically result in 10 or 20 years in state prison.

"If you’re in a self-defense situation and you pull a gun and show it to make a bad guy go away, you should not be arrested under aggravated assault and be subject to 10 years mandatory minimum," Hammer said. "And if you make an unwise shot to warn someone, you certainly shouldn't be going to jail for 20 years."

FAMM’s website argues for either repealing the 10-20-Life law or allowing a "safety valve" for judges to deviate from the mandatory minimum if certain conditions are met.

"Though the law’s authors intended it to apply to ‘the thug who was robbing a liquor store’ 10-20-Life is being applied in self-defense cases, particularly aggravated assault cases in which a defendant either displays a firearm or fires a ‘warning shot’ in self-defense," FAMM states on its website. "10-20-Life’s severe penalties make the consequences of any mistaken or rejected claim of self-defense extraordinarily high."

An appellate court granted a new trial in the case of Marissa Alexander, a black mother of three who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for aggravated assault for allegedly firing a warning shot at her then-husband. Alexander claims her husband had first broken through a door and then charged at her "in a rage" saying, "Bitch, I'll kill you."

In May 2012, Gawker was literally outraged over Alexander’s sentence.

Published under: Gun Control