Floridians fight over legalized dueling

April 6, 2005 at 2:40 PM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., April 6 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is set to sign into law a measure that permits residents to "meet force with force" when under attack.

The bill, SB 436, authorizes the use of deadly force without an attempt at retreat when being attacked within one's home or car. Fighting back in public areas would only be allowed after a retreat attempt had been tried and failed, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Critics say the measure will encourage a Wild West atmosphere in bars, on streets and in other public spaces across the state, effectively sanctioning legalized dueling.

"It's a little dismaying that any responsible legislator would consider this," said Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross. "This is going to make us less safe because it's going to discourage all restraint by citizens. ... Now they are under less legal requirement to use restraint before resorting to violence. I believe this is a step backward."

But Bush says the new rule of the street will cause mischief-makers to think twice before going through with an assault.

"Our crime rate's dropping, and it's because of measures that allow people to protect themselves and their properties," Bush said.

The Florida House gave final approval to the bill by a 94-20 vote Tuesday; it passed in the Senate by 39-0 two weeks ago. The bill would take effect Oct. 1.

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