- The Washington Times
Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Florida gun law that’s backed by the National Rifle Association — the “stand your ground” right to self-defense — heads to the state’s Supreme Court for a case-related review on Tuesday.

The outcome of the case — which pits Jared Bretherick against Derek Dunning in a 2011 road rage case involving a gun but no shots fired — could flip the burden of proof aspect of the law.

Currently, those citing “stand your ground” to justify their use of firearms for self-defense have to prove they needed to defend themselves.

If the Supreme Court sides with Mr. Bretherick, though, permitted gun owners could be relieved from that burden of proof standard, Reuters reported. Instead, prosecutors in cases involving “stand your ground” would have to prove the party brandishing the gun in cited self defense did not actually need to act in self defense, or was not truly acting in self defense.

“Stand your ground” took root in 2005 in Florida to allow victims to use deadly force when they fear their lives, or the lives of their loved ones or others, are in danger.

Mr. Bretherick reportedly felt that way in 2011 when he was traveling in an SUV near Orlando with his family and was nearly sideswiped by Mr. Dunning. Mr. Dunning then pulled in front of them and stopped, Reuters reported. He reportedly jumped out of his vehicle and approached the Bretherick vehicle.

Mr. Bretherick then dialed 911 and brandished his holstered weapon at Mr. Dunning to scare him away. Mr. Dunning went back to his own SUV, but started backing it up into the Bretherick’s SUV, Reuters reported.

That’s when Mr. Bretherick grabbed his father’s gun and stood next to his SUV, pointing it at Mr. Dunning’s vehicle, previous court testimony said. Deputies found Mr. Bretherick with the pointed gun when they responded to the scene, Reuters reported.

No shots were fired. But Mr. Bretherick told deputies he heard Mr. Dunning warn that he had a gun, too, and that he was worried about the safety of his father, a disabled veteran. Still, police charged Mr. Bretherick with aggravated assault.

Mr. Bretherick was not allowed to claim “stand your ground” immunity at a June 2012 hearing because the judge ruled that Mr. Dunning did not commit any violent crime and had actually gone back into his own vehicle.

Mr. Bretherick appealed and the district appellate court asked the state Supreme Court to step in and rule on the burden of proof issue, Reuters reported.

The NRA, meanwhile, has filed court documents to support Mr. Bretherick, Reuters said.

“Stand your ground” came to national attention in 2012 when Florida homeowner George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old teen Trayvon Martin, claiming self-defense.

A few months later, Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges. And state lawmakers earlier this year brought forward a new rule that allows permitted firearms owners to brandish their guns and fire warning shots without worries about assault charges, in cases where they fear death or injury.

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