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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April, 2005, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Florida to expand law on gun use
Handgun, Corbis
The law is heavily backed by the National Rifle Association
A law letting people in Florida kill in self-defence on the street without first trying to flee an attacker has been passed by Florida politicians.

Florida law already allows people to shoot a potential attacker in their home, place of work or car.

But until now, courts insisted that anyone confronted in a public place should first try to run away.

Critics of the law say it will bring a Wild West attitude to Florida - magnet to hundreds of thousands of tourists.

One critic said all the measure would do is sell more guns and turn the state into a modern version of the OK Corral.

The bill has been heavily backed by the National Rifle Association, the lobbying group which defends the rights of Americans to carry guns.

Dennis Baxley, the Republican sponsor of the Stand Your Ground bill said it was about meeting force with force.

"If I'm attacked, I should not have to retreat," he said.

The bill has already passed the Florida Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Jeb Bush, the president's brother.

Opponents said the move gave gun owners a license to kill.

"For a House that talks about the culture of life it's ironic that we would be devaluing life in this bill," said Democratic state Rep Dan Gelber of Miami Beach.

"That's exactly what we're doing."

Opponents of gun control have celebrated recent victories: Congress let the ban on assault weapons expire last autumn, and since 2003, five states have approved laws allowing people to carry concealed weapons.

Thirty-five states now require the authorities to issue permits for concealed handguns to most applicants as long as they do not have criminal records, and two, Alaska and Vermont, allow concealed weapons without a permit.

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