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Florida boosts gun rights, igniting a debate

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Ms. Brady believes that far from making sense, the new law provides gun owners a legal screen behind which to hide during confrontations and "threatens to enable every rogue with an itchy trigger finger." "It's a terrible precedent," she says. "I am sorry that Florida had to be a test-ground, but I think what has gone on there should be a wakeup call for the rest of the country to stand up and fight this."

Gun advocates reject the notion that the new law leaves too great a margin of error, however. They also dismiss critics' talk of a Wild West revival and the assertion by Democratic Rep. Irv Slosberg, one of only 20 state lawmakers who opposed the bill, that it will promote vigilantism, "sell more guns, and possibly turn Florida into the OK Corral."

The law empowers the public, they argue, and should be used to send a powerful message to would-be criminals across the country. "You can't expect a victim to wait before taking action to protect himself and his family and say, 'Excuse me, Mr. Criminal, are here you breaking into my home to rape and kill me or are you just here to beat me up and steal my TV set? And by the way what kind of weapon do you have?' " Marion Hammer, an NRA lobbyist who was a driving force behind the bill, told the legislature during debate.

Ms. Hammer, a former president of the NRA, adds: "This puts the law on the side of the victim. For too long, the law has been protecting criminals. Law-abiding people only want to be able to protect themselves, and they are sick and tired of our court system saying they can't."

Why Florida is the launchpad
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