Florida Legislature Rules for Self-Defense

People who feel threatened anywhere they have a legal right to be — even on the street or at a baseball game — could "meet force with force" to defend themselves without fear of prosecution or liability under a bill passed overwhelmingly Tuesday by the Florida House.

The measure essentially extends a right Floridians already have in their home or car. Under present law, however, people attacked anywhere else are supposed to do what they can to avoid escalating the situation and can use deadly force only after they've tried to retreat.

"I'm sorry, people, but if I'm attacked I shouldn't have a duty to retreat," said the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Dennis Baxley. "That's a good way to get shot in the back."

The measure passed 94-20. It had already passed the Senate and now heads to Gov. Jeb Bush (search), who has not said whether he will sign it. It was the top priority of the National Rifle Association (search) in Florida this year.

Baxley said that if people have the clear right to defend themselves without having to worry about legal consequences, criminals will think twice.

Opponents said it will make Florida like the "Wild, Wild West," but defenders say it is really no different from what most other states allow in laws governing self-defense.