Florida Expands Right To Use In Self Defense

Dear Everyone;

A NY Times story about an expanded right to defend bill signed by Jeb Bush in Florida. Too bad the SF Supervisors want to retrogress on protecting yourself when needed in your home by disarming you and making you a criminal if you own a handgun..

Ron Getty
SF Libertarian

April 27, 2005Florida Expands Right to Use Deadly Force in Self-DefenseBy ABBY GOODNOUGH

IAMI, April 26 - Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill on Tuesday giving Florida citizens more leeway to use deadly force in their homes and in public, a move that gun-control groups and several urban police chiefs warned would give rise to needless deaths.

The measure, known as the "stand your ground" bill, lets people use guns or other deadly force to defend themselves in public places without first trying to escape.

Floridians already had the right to defend themselves against home intruders under what is known as the castle doctrine, but until now, they could not do so in public.

The National Rifle Association lobbied hard for the bill's passage, and Wayne LaPierre, the group's executive vice president, said it would use the victory to push for similar measures elsewhere. The bill's sponsor, Representative Dennis K. Baxley of Ocala, said it would curb violent crime and make citizens feel safer.

"It's a clear position that we will stand with victims of violent attacks when the law is in their favor," said Mr. Baxley, a Republican. "People want to know we stand on the side of victims of crime instead of the side of criminals."

Governor Bush, a Republican, said he supported the measure because when people faced life-threatening situations, "to have to retreat and put yourself in a very precarious position defies common sense."

But John F. Timoney, Miami's police chief, called the bill unnecessary and dangerous. Chief Timoney, who has successfully pushed his police officers to use less deadly force, said many people, including children, could become innocent victims. The bill could make gun owners, including drivers with road rage or drunken sports fans who get into fights leaving ball games, assume they have "total immunity," he said.

"Whether it's trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn't want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house," Chief Timoney said, "you're encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn't be used."

Chief Chuck Harmon of the St. Petersburg police and Sheriff Ken Jenne of Broward County also publicly opposed the bill. The Florida House of Representatives voted 94 to 20 in favor of the bill earlier this month, while the Senate passed it 39 to 0.

The measure codifies in state law what many courts have already ruled in Florida: that a citizen need not try to escape an intruder in his home or workplace before using deadly force in self-defense.

The measure also goes a step further, letting "a person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be" use deadly force without first trying to flee.

Florida was among the first states to allow people to carry concealed firearms, and Sarah Brady, chairwoman of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a national gun-control group, said she was not surprised that the N.R.A. lobbied for the new law here first.

"The populace in Florida is very much common sense and on our side," Mrs. Brady said, "but the State Legislature is very conservative and the N.R.A. has control of them. I'm just sick. It's just a terrible, terrible bill."

Mrs. Brady, whose husband, James, was seriously injured in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, said that while the Florida measure was disheartening, other states were taking a different stance. On Monday, Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, a Democrat, vetoed a bill that would have let people carry loaded guns into bars.

Mr. LaPierre of the N.R.A. said his group would introduce the bill in every state, and he predicted it would win broad national support.

"We will start with red and move to blue," he said of the states. "In terms of passing it, it is downhill rather than uphill because of all the public support."