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Julie Delegal: Dear visitors, ‘Welcome to the Gunshine State’

Recently, the Florida Sheriff’s Association voted by voice poll to support the “concept” of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

As the Tampa Tribune noted, however, not all of Florida’s sheriffs support all aspects of the 2005 changes to the self-defense statutes.

And that’s with good reason.  The revisions that brought us Stand Your Ground may have unwittingly deputized every gun owner in the state — with no psychological screening, no physical training and no police academy coursework.

In 2005, Florida lawmakers revised the self-defense laws to exclude a time-tested safeguard: the duty of a citizen to retreat, if at all possible, when he perceives a threat.

The pre-2005 duty to retreat didn’t apply to people defending themselves in their homes. Nor did it apply to sworn police officers. In fact, law enforcement officers are charged, on our behalf, to pursue criminals.

Has the verdict in the Zimmerman trial shown us that, in Florida, police powers are no longer exclusive to the police?

As a cop’s daughter, I’m partial to limiting law enforcement duties to those who prove they’re fit to perform them. My father worked to earn the trust of the citizenry before he was permitted to patrol our streets.

Dad, like all police officers, was trained to ascertain genuine threats, and to respond to them with appropriate force.

Law enforcement personnel are schooled in safe, hand-to-hand takedown techniques. They’re also taught to use nonlethal tools of compliance, which is why they carry batons and Tasers. Only in rare circumstances are police ever justified in using deadly force.

There is no “matrix of force” calculation being performed, however, by the typical citizen gun owner. There is no expectation of training, psychological stability, or sound judgment from the neighborhood watchman, or the convenience-store shopper, or the enraged highway driver.

There is no longer the expectation that law enforcement will be conducted only by trained cops.

Do we really want to send our children out to negotiate a state full of untrained, armed, self-appointed deputies? The least we could do is warn visitors with a sign at the state line:

Welcome to the GunShine State, where our fascination with firearms has bloodied and blurred the Thin Blue Line.

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