Attention: Visitors Risk Being Shot in Florida
Welcome to Florida, but avoid arguments or thanks to a new law you run
the risk of getting shot, according to an ad campaign launched by a
The campaign coincides with a state law that enters into effect
authorizing gun owners to shoot anyone in a public area who they
believe threaten their safety.
The law, supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA), was
approved by the state legislature in April. Governor Jeb Bush
described it as a "good, common sense, anti-crime issue" when he
signed it into law. His is a brother of US President George W. Bush.
Supporters call it the "Stand Your Ground" law, while opponents call
it the "Shoot First" law.
Under the previous law gun owners had first to attempt to withdraw and
avoid a confrontation, and were authorized to shoot the threatening
individual inside their home or property.
Critics say the current law allows gun owners to shoot if they engage
in a simple argument. Supporters say that criminals will think twice
when they try to attack someone in public.
Before the law was "on the side of the criminal," said Marion Hammer,
head of Unified Sportsmen of Florida and a former NRA president. "The
new law is on the side of the law-abiding victim," Hammer said.
Enter the Washington DC-based Brady Campaign to Control Gun
Violence. The group will run ads in US and British newspapers warning
tourists planning to visit Florida that a "nervous and frightened"
Florida resident could shoot to kill. "Warning: Florida residents can
use deadly force," the ad states.
"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 ad
The Brady Campaign promises to also run ads in French, German and
Japanese newspapers if they can stretch their budget. They also plan
to hand out fliers and post signs on the Florida highways with the
"It is reasonable to make people know that while they're visiting
Florida they should take the right precautions to avoid potentially
being victims of violence," Brady Campaign spokesman Peter Hamm told
The group is named after Jim Brady, spokesman for president Ronald
Reagan. Brady received a gunshot that paralyzed him when a mentally
disturbed man shot Reagan in 1981.
Florida tourist authorities are hardly amused by the campaign.
"The Brady Campaign is one group's political agenda and not a safety
and education issue," fumed Bud Nocera, executive director of Visit
Florida, the state's tourism office, who described it as a "scare
"It is sad that such an organization would hold the 900,000 men and
women who work in the Florida tourism industry, and whose lives depend
on it, hostage, to their political agenda," he added.
Nocera said the campaign would have no impact on the millions of
tourists that visit Florida, numbering 80 million in 2004.
"I can't understand why anybody would be opposed to telling visitors
what the law is," said Hamm. "No state in America has ever passed a
law like this one."
The Brady Campaign is "not telling anybody that they shouldn't visit
Florida. My family and I vacation in Florida every Easter and were
intending to do so. But I'm going to make sure that none of the people
in my family get into a loud argument while we are there," he said.
Copyright 2005 Agence France Presse.
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