Monday, October 17, 2005

Bring Sunscreen — and a .38

Jim Shea of the Hartford Courant takes a tongue-in-cheek view of Florida’s new gun law.

I’m not a travel agent or anything, but if you are planning to go to Florida I have some advice for you: Pack a heater.

The Sunshine State could be on the verge of turning into Deadwood South courtesy of a new law that makes it easier for one person to legally plug another in certain situations.

The law, called “stand your ground,” essentially says that if you feel threatened you are no longer obligated to retreat or attempt to defuse the situation before opting to squeeze off a few rounds in self-defense.

Predictably, not everyone is behind the new law, although for the life of me I can’t understand why. But then I’m a longtime advocate of making it legal to shoot at people who try to skirt traffic jams by driving in the breakdown lane.

Anyway, a group called “The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence” has been handing out leaflets at Florida airports that warn visitors: “Do not argue unnecessarily with local people. 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.” (It’s probably also a good idea to keep your hands where they can be seen at all times.)

The Florida tourism industry is really miffed about the airport leafleting and claims that the state is a “very safe and secure destination.” Which kind of makes you wonder why then there is a need for a shoot-first-and-oops-later law.

The answer — according to the National Rifle Association, which has kind of a power-sharing arrangement with Florida politicians — is that it will make the state even safer.

“Stand your ground” passed the Florida House by a wide margin, was approved unanimously by the Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush while the state’s top NRA lobbyist looked over his shoulder.

Needless to say, Bush is also angry at the Brady Bunch. He says that their motivation is “pure, unadulterated politics.”

While that may be true, it does raise the question of just why the NRA guy was in the photo with Bush. (Sometimes politics is just so nuanced.)

The next logical step is for Florida to pass a companion law to “stand your ground,” which might be called something like “make your move.”

As I see it, the major flaw in “stand your ground” is that not everyone is strapped, which means that the playing field is not always level.

However, if Florida passes a law requiring everyone to openly carry a weapon — concealed weapons should be illegal — then there is a certain amount of deterrence built into the system.

Now, some people might find arming children objectionable, but I don’t think there is any question that it will solve the problem of bullying overnight.

As for tourism, Florida public-relations people should stop being defensive about “stand your ground” and embrace the landmark legislation. How about this for a new state motto: Florida, the Deathwish State.