Friday, April 08, 2005

Florida to allow use of force even outside home

Florida to allow use of force even outside home
'Good, common sense, anti-crime issue'

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) -- Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday he intends to sign a bill that would allow people who feel threatened -- even on the street or at a baseball game -- to "meet force with force" and defend themselves without fear of prosecution.

The measure, the top priority of the National Rifle Association in Florida this year, passed the House 94-20 on Tuesday. It had already passed the Senate.

Bush, who has championed tougher penalties for people convicted of using guns in crimes, said the bill is about self-defense and called it "a good, common sense, anti-crime issue."

The measure essentially extends a right Floridians already have in their home or car. Under present law, however, people attacked anywhere else are supposed to do what they can to avoid escalating the situation and can use deadly force only after they've tried to retreat.

"I'm sorry, people, but if I'm attacked I shouldn't have a duty to retreat," said the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Dennis Baxley. "That's a good way to get shot in the back."

Baxley said that if people have the clear right to defend themselves without having to worry about legal consequences, criminals will think twice.

Opponents feared the bill would make Florida resemble the wild West, but defenders say it is no different from what most other states allow in laws governing self-defense.

The bill says a person has "the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so, to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another."