Do Snow Birds going to Florida need to arm themselves?

Shoot First, ask Questions Later?

Florida's new Shoot First law exemplifies the power of the National Rifle Association which knows no shame in its pursuit of the right to bear arms anytime, anywhere for any purpose.For a good discussion of the gun control issue in the U.S., read Richard North Patterson's Balance of Power

Florida's "stand your ground" law, which took effect Saturday, means that people no longer must attempt to retreat or defuse a threatening situation before using violence in order to later claim they were acting in self-defence. People already had that right in their homes, but the law now allows them to meet "force with force" in any place they have a legal right to be.

The right does not apply if the person is confronted by a law-enforcement officer.

Proponents of the measure, pushed by the National Rifle Association, say it will make Florida a safer place, not more dangerous.

Governor Jeb Bush has repeatedly pointed to a 34-year low in state crime statistics to demonstrate that Florida is not a haven for violence.

"It's pure, unadulterated politics," Mr. Bush said last week of the Brady Campaign's tactics. "Shame on them."

The Florida tourism industry, however, is taking the campaign seriously, with Visit Florida — the state's official tourism-marketing arm — issuing a statement calling Florida "a very safe and secure destination that excels in caring for its visitors."

"We believe that Americans and international visitors are smart enough to understand that the Brady Campaign is one group's political agenda and not a real safety issue," the statement said.

Florida greets more than one million visitors on any given day, with nearly 80 million tourists visiting the state in 2004, Visit Florida said.

The Brady Campaign leaflets, which the group intends to hand out for about a month at the Miami and Orlando airports, call the measure the "Shoot First" law and urge people to "take sensible precautions" while visiting the state.

"There is no other state in the nation — and no other civilized nation on Earth — that has a law like this," Brady Campaign spokesman Peter Hamm said. "It could cause the most aggressive people in society to overreact."

The group also has taken out ads in major Detroit, Chicago, Boston and London newspapers about the new Florida law.

Several people who got the leaflets at the Miami airport on Monday appeared taken aback by the new law.

"It's a little scary," said Melissa Vosberg, on her way home to the Chicago area after a cruise in the Bahamas. "It's 'shoot first, ask about it later."'

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