Florida Senate set to vote on 'stand your ground' bill next week

By Troy Kinsey, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, March 09, 2017, 10:06 PM EST

The Florida Senate held a tense debate Thursday that sets the stage for passage of a bill that shifts the burden of proof in "stand your ground" cases. 

If the full senate approves the new legislation, it would increase the amount of protection gunowners have when they claim self-defense. 

Currently, the burden of proof is on the person claiming self-defense to prove they were in fact threatened or in imminent danger. 

If the new law passes, the burden shifts to prosecutors who would have to prove self-defense wasn't warranted. 

The debate over the stand your ground proposal is polarizing with gun advocates saying the law makes sense, while those against guns say it will just lead to more "trigger happy shooters" that would be more protected from prosecution. 

"This is the most serious and solemn power that our state government exercises, in my estimation, and the burden should be high on the government from the beginning of a criminal case to the end," said FL Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. "This bill puts the burden of proof where it should be in the immunity hearings - with the government."

Not every Republican is in favor of the bill. Some say it will lead to more people shooting first and asking questions later. 

A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed "stand your ground" led to an increase in homicide in Florida.

The bill has been criticized by prosecutors in particular, who say it would make it much more difficult to prosecute murder cases successfully.

"If we're going to shift the burden from the defendant to the government, then give the government the same standard. Let's not tie their hands in all of these cases that this defense will be utilized," said FL Sen. Perry Thursday, D-Ft. Lauderdale.

Regardless of how quickly the Florida Legislature Acts, the bill will not apply to the Curtis Reeves movie theater shooting case

The Senate is set to approve the bill next week. 

The Stand Your Ground expansion is expected to easily pass the Florida House.

The judge is that case is expected to come back with a ruling by the end of the week.