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Retreat from NRA's force

Legislators should have questioned the unnecessary deadly force bill. Instead, most lost their voices and caved in to the gun lobby.

A Times Editorial
Published April 9, 2005

Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida Legislature want Floridians to feel free to fight back with deadly force in their homes and have no obligation to retreat from danger in public. They love to talk tough about meeting force with force - except when it comes to standing up to the National Rifle Association.

The NRA is behind this bad bill (SB 436), which encourages deadly violence in a state that already has more than its share. Gun lobbyist Marion Hammer stared down legislators as they voted, and few had the courage to oppose her. The bill puts into state law a common law principle that people have the right to use deadly force if attacked inside their home. That might not be so bad, but it also repeals the requirement to retreat from danger before resorting to deadly force outside the home, car or job site. A caricature of the state map does resemble a handgun, but this goes too far.

This fight already is lost, because the governor says he will sign the bill into law. But it is not too late to ask a few questions. Why did most Democrats cave to the notion that it is bad politics to fight the gun lobby when this bill creates opportunities for more violence, not less? Why did sheriffs and prosecutors lose their voices? Why didn't other police chiefs raise concerns like St. Petersburg's Chuck Harmon did after the bill passed?

This legislation was not needed. Current law clearly gives citizens the right to defend themselves in their own home and to respond to danger elsewhere with deadly force if nothing else works. But now we will all feel free to fight rather than retreat when we feel threatened. Too bad that doctrine will apply only in the streets and not in the Florida Legislature.

[Last modified April 9, 2005, 07:10:29]

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