Florida gets new controversial law

A national gun-control group is riling Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida's mighty tourism industry by warning visitors that arguing with locals could end bad.

The group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, based in Washington, began handing out fliers at Miami International Airport on Monday, cautioning visitors to take "sensible precautions" and to be aware that altercations on highways, in nightclubs or on the beach could provoke a shooting.

The fliers offer tips like "Do not argue unnecessarily with local people," and "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."

The group said it was passing out the fliers to protest Florida's new "stand your ground" law, which lets people use guns or other deadly force to defend themselves in public places without first trying to escape.

The law took effect Saturday, six months after the Legislature passed it. The National Rifle Association had lobbied hard for its passage.

On Sunday, the Brady Campaign ran advertisements in The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune and The Detroit Free Press, featuring a handgun-shaped map of Florida next to the words "Thinking about a Florida vacation? Please ensure your family is safe." The ad is to run in The Guardian of London this weekend.

Governor Bush and the state's tourism agency, Visit Florida, have derided the effort as a scare tactic. Both said that the crime rate in Florida was at its lowest in 34 years. About 80 million people, including repeat visitors, come to the state each year, fueling a $57 billion tourism industry, according to Visit Florida.

In Britain, where Florida is considered a popular vacation destination, a spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents said members had begun telling customers about the law. But the spokesman, Sean Tipton, said the law would not stop tourists from traveling here.

Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign, said the group did not want to be accused of dredging up old fears about Florida, but it decided it was a risk worth taking.

Mr. Hamm said the Brady Campaign was fighting a similar proposal in Michigan and preparing for a battle over a new gun bill in Florida.

Introduced last month by State Representative Dennis K. Baxley, a Republican who also sponsored "stand your ground," the new proposal would impose criminal penalties on businesses that try to stop employees from keeping guns in their cars while parked at work. It is modeled on an Oklahoma law that drew attention recently after several large companies joined a federal lawsuit to block it.

The Miami airport is allowing the Brady Campaign to approach passengers in several "First Amendment zones" near arrival points. When the first fliers were distributed on Monday, most recipients kept walking, but some stopped, foreheads crinkling as they read the boldface warning, The New York Times reports.

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