Florida law allows firing of warning shots

TAMPA Fla. Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:43pm EDT

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TAMPA Fla. (Reuters) - Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law on Friday a controversial bill involving the state's "stand your ground" self-defense rules, making it legal in some circumstances to fire a warning shot.

The law, which takes effect immediately, was inspired in part by the public outcry over the case of a black woman sentenced to a 20-year prison term under the state's mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines because she fired a gun at her abusive husband during an argument.

Marissa Alexander's case drew comparisons to the acquittal last year of George Zimmerman, who argued he acted in self-defense in shooting and killing a black, unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin.

Anticipating the new law, a judge recently delayed a retrial for Alexander, whose conviction was overturned on appeal.

Under Florida's "stand your ground" law, people who use deadly force to defend themselves - rather than retreating to avoid confrontation - can be immune from prosecution if they have a reasonable fear of serious injury.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Eric Beech)

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