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5/03/2005

Florida as a gun-law trendsetter

Predictions that ''Castle Doctrine" will spread to other states

The Florida measure says any person ''has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm."

Florida law already lets residents defend themselves against attackers if they can prove they could not have escaped. The new law would allow them to use deadly force even if they could have fled and says that prosecutors must automatically presume that would-be victims feared for their lives if attacked.

The overwhelming vote margins and bipartisan support for the Florida gun bill -- it passed unanimously in the state Senate and was approved 94 to 20 in the House, with nearly a dozen Democratic cosponsors -- have alarmed some national advocates of gun control who say a measure that made headlines in Florida slipped beneath their radar.

''I am in absolute shock," Sarah Brady, chair of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said in an interview. ''If I had known about it, I would have been down there."

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