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Thread: Canadian tourists warned of Florida's "shoot first" law

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Default Canadian tourists warned of Florida's "shoot first" law

    Gotta love the NRA..

    Snowbirds get gun law alert
    Lobby against new `shoot first' legislation targets tourists to the Sunshine State


    TIM HARPER
    WASHINGTON BUREAU

    TAMPA, Fla.—Canada could become the next frontier in a battle that pits Florida's sunshine and beaches against what some call its burgeoning Wild West mentality and love of the gun.

    As some 1.9 million snowbirds gear up for their annual pilgrimage southward, one of the nation's premier gun control organizations is taking on the National Rifle Association, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the state's tourism industry over a new state law it has dubbed the "shoot first" legislation.


    The law allows residents to stand their ground if threatened in their cars or public places, extending their right to use firearms to protect themselves outside their home. Its guiding principle is that no one should have to run from a confrontation — they should be able to shoot instead.

    The NRA says the law will make Florida safer because criminals don't know who is armed. But, then again, neither do the tourists, and 352,000 Floridians are legally allowed to carry concealed weapons.

    Into this wades the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which has taken its campaign against the law to the Miami Airport, where it's passing out leaflets warning visitors of danger. They are also planning billboards and have advertised in major newspapers in Boston, Detroit and Chicago as well as the United Kingdom.

    But more Canadians flock to Florida than visitors from any other country and ads in Canadian newspapers are coming.

    "Do not argue unnecessarily with local people," the leaflet warns. "If you are involved in a traffic accident or near-miss, remain in your car and keep your hands in plain sight.

    "If someone appears to be angry with you, maintain to the best of your ability a positive attitude, and do not shout or make threatening gestures."

    The campaign has struck a nerve here.

    "It's silly. It's false. And it's politically motivated," says Marion Hammer, the NRA's top lobbyist in Florida.

    "They've taken a sheet of paper, typed up some ridiculous things, ran it over to Jiffy Print and the TV cameras have flocked to them like they're giving away $50 bills."

    Bush called the efforts "pathetic."

    "It won't have an impact on changing visitor patterns," he said. "But, you know, it's shameful that people would try to scare visitors when they show up, travelling hours to get to what we call paradise."

    There is no evidence, however, to indicate the law was spurred by any injustice and the NRA makes no secret of the fact that it wants to use the law in Florida as a template for similar laws in other states.

    It already has measures under consideration in state houses in Alabama and Michigan.

    It is also not stopping there.

    It has found Republican sponsors for another Florida bill, to be debated next spring, that would penalize employers who want their workers to keep their guns out of their cars in company parking lots.

    Ignoring the "disgruntled" employee murders which have become a staple on the American landscape, the NRA has argued the car is an extension of home.

    Those employees who kill usually go home to get their weapons anyway," Hammer said.

    The Brady campaign says there is no reason to have the "shoot first" law on the books other than as an appeasement to the NRA.

    Name one guy in this state who is in jail because he shot somebody in self-defence, says Peter Hamm, the Brady campaign's communications director.

    "In every other state, if you shoot somebody in self-defence, the police sit you down and interview you and find out whether you acted properly. That system has worked pretty well for 230 years."

    The president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, Willie Meggs, has said the law may solve a problem which did not exist.

    "What I worry about," he said, "is that people who should be prosecuted will have a defence for using force when they didn't need to."

    Vanessa Welter, of VisitFlorida.org, the state's official tourism marketing organization, concedes she must allocate time and money to counter the anti-gun message.

    Her counterattack comes hard on the heels of last year's $6.75 million (U.S.) campaign to convince tourists that the state was safe and still open for business after being battered by four hurricanes in a single season.

    "It's shameful," she said. "They can hurt tourism here if people don't take time to discern all the facts here. We have a very good relationship with Canadians and we care deeply about the tourist and his or her safety. We're confident people will judge this on the facts."

    But the facts are murky: the Florida crime rate is down.

    "Criminals are afraid of law-abiding people," Hammer said. "This will make it safer for Canadians. Criminals won't want to mess with people because they don't know who has got one. They're going to other states."

    But only South Carolina had a higher violent crime rate than Florida in 2003, the last year in which complete statistics are available, and the law was opposed by a number of police chiefs, including Miami's chief.

    People are responding to the Brady campaign.

    "It certainly makes you think and I appreciate knowing," said Monica Geroux, who was visiting from upstate New York.

    In a letter to the Orlando Sentinel, David Crawford of Winnipeg said he's not coming back and will spend his tourist dollars in Arizona or California.

    "As long as your `shoot first' law is in effect, I will not allow my family to set foot in Florida," he wrote. "I find this situation unfortunate because I have enjoyed visiting Florida many times. As your neighbour to the north, many Canadians find your gun culture rather odd."

    When the cable network MSNBC reported the story, they received a torrent of emails.

    "As a Florida resident and runner," wrote Dean Redfern of Lutz, Fla., "I love our new gun law. Now when a dog owner allows his unleashed and aggressive dog to attack me, I can shoot them both in self-defence."

    A major gun show in Tampa this weekend advertised an array of weaponry all "suitable for self-defence," but Hammer says the law will not create an upswing in sales for gun manufacturers. "The overwhelming majority of people who want guns in their homes already have them."

    If the Brady campaign wants to do something constructive, she said, they should be leafleting at the Washington airports because the District of Columbia is a much more dangerous place than Florida.

    Hamm says there is no effort to damage Florida tourism.

    "We are telling people in a reasonable way and with reasonable rhetoric that this law is on the books. We didn't put it there."
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

  2. #2
    Elite Member miss_perfect's Avatar
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    This sounds completely absurd. I live in an area that is heavily Canadian during the winter months and nothing of consequence happens. Most of the time everyone minds their own business, even the redneck sections of my town.

    We have more problems with gun-toting drug dealers than we do with gun-toting rednecks. I can't speak for northern Florida though.

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