Saturday, October 1


Well, I was pretty happy to be heading to my native state Florida tomorrow for a week's film shoot, especially since I planned to stay on over the weekend to visit with my wonderful mother and sisters. I had fantasies of filling my lungs with that marvelous Gulf Coast sea air I was raised on and recharging my spirit on the soothing sounds of the waves.

Then I read this and remembered the new law about to take effect. Basically, it means that if someone in Florida thinks you look or act threatening, they can shoot you. So I'm going to be especially careful when I take an eight-person film crew, one of whom looks as if he could be Arab, and accompanying equipment into public places, particularly the three major airports among the locations we'll be filming in. I'll be especially cautious about pointing the light meter, carrying lenses and so forth -- I sure wouldn't want any one of them mistaken for a gun.

Welcome to Florida, the Sunshine State. Please avoid unnecessary arguments with locals. Starting today, they may be more inclined to shoot you — at least that's essentially the message from a national gun-control organization as a Florida law goes into effect empowering people who feel threatened to use force, including firearms, to protect themselves.

Before, if possible, they were supposed to back down or run away.

"It's unlike any supposed self-defense statute in America," said Peter Hamm, communications director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It empowers people who are on edge and have violent tendencies to presume a situation is dangerous to them that may not be."
The Brady Campaign argues that Florida's "Shoot First Law," as its foes have labeled it, threatens to make life in the nation's fourth-most-populous state riskier, not safer.

To alert visitors and potential visitors, the organization is placing advertisements in newspapers in Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Britain, all major markets for Florida's tourism industry, and plans to begin handing out leaflets to arriving passengers at Miami International Airport on Monday.

"In Florida, avoid disputes," recommends the newspaper ad. "Use special caution in arguing with motorists on Florida roads.

"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," says the flier.


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