Stand Your Ground, Gun in Hand Florida's new "stand your ground" bill allows residents to use guns to defend themselves in public places if they feel threatened with bodily harm. Humorist Brian Unger has some advice on the new law.

Stand Your Ground, Gun in Hand

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In today's Unger Report, the `stand your ground' bill--it's the measure just passed by the Florida Legislature. It lets people use guns to defend themselves in public places without first trying to escape. Today, Brian Unger stands his ground.

BRIAN UNGER reporting:

Under the `Castle Doctrine'--no relation to Carl--most states allow citizen to use deadly force to stand their ground within their own home if they feel threatened with bodily harm. But the new Florida gun law expands the ground on which you can take that stand: to the road, to the job, to any public place.

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UNGER: In Florida, wherever you go, you'll never be yellow. Unless you catch hepatitis, of course, or wear Tommy Bahama. As usual, he's done a lot of terrific things with yellow this year.

In theory, the Legislature in Florida has handed to its gun-toting citizenry the right to do what professional cops everywhere have struggled with in practice: to use deadly force when they feel their lives are being threatened, to meet force with force outside the home. No more duty to retreat, no more running away Chicken Little with your tail between your legs; this is `We're fighting them here so we don't have to fight them in our underwear, in our bedrooms, our living rooms, our back yards,' anyplace where the only thing covering our private parts is Smith & Wesson. Or this is `If I have to blow your head off right here in the parking lot of Olive Garden, in front of my kids, fine.'

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UNGER: Florida's `stand your ground' gun law--signed by Governor Jeb Bush, backed by the NRA--has been called by opponents a duel clause, or the `shoot first' law. What's in a name but this? That which takes cops years on the job to learn--when it's reasonable and necessary to use deadly force--is now in the hands of the amateurs. And while cops in every city strive to use less deadly force, paradoxically, the measure puts state legislators sworn to make law at odds with cops sworn to enforce it.

So if you live in Florida, or plan on traveling there, a few key things to keep in mind so you don't get, you know, shot. First, don't look at anyone funny. In fact, avoid making eye contact with people. Don't ogle a man's wife. Don't stare at his dog. Don't tell a man in Florida, `Hey, your mullet really needs a trim.' Don't argue with a motorist. And if you must and it gets kind of heated, shoot the other driver before they shoot you.

A few other ways to protect yourself now that it's legal in Florida to use deadly force reasonably outside the home: Don't taunt Floridians with, `Hey, does this mean that culture of life stuff is bunk?' Avoid pointing at people with things that the untrained eye might reasonably perceive as an Uzi, like a cigar. And lastly, don't antagonize your neighbors. Always rerack your weed whacker, lock up your leaf blower and holster your chain saw. You never know what might set someone off. And that is today's Unger Report. I'm Brian Unger.

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This program note, NPR News will continue to cover today's major story, the nomination of Harriet Miers to the US Supreme Court. She's currently President Bush's White House counsel. She's 60 years old, a former president of both the Texas State Bar and Dallas Bar Associations. She's never before served as a judge. Senate Republicans say they want her confirmed by Thanksgiving. If she is confirmed, Ms. Miers will replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female justice in the court's history.

DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from I'm Alex Chadwick.

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