LANSING (AP) – Earlier this year, gun control advocates failed to block a Florida bill allowing people to use deadly force in the street to defend themselves.

The advocates vow not to let that happen in Michigan.

The battle in Michigan over the so-called deadly force legislation is important for both sides in the gun debate. It could open the doors to similar laws across the country – a top priority for the National Rifle Association – or stop the effort in its tracks.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Million Mom March are sending out news releases criticizing the legislation and are calling lawmakers in an attempt to keep the bills from getting out of the House Judiciary Committee.

“This is a byproduct of having missed the boat in Florida,” said Peter Hamm, director of communications for the Washington-based Brady Campaign. “We have been watching like a hawk for this to surface in other states.”

The Michigan legislation would eliminate the requirement that people being attacked must retreat before responding with deadly force. It would allow people who feel threatened, even in a public area, to “meet force with force” and defend themselves without facing criminal or civil prosecution.

State Reps. Tom Casperson and Rick Jones, both Republicans, introduced the bills. They said that although it would be unlikely for a crime victim to face criminal charges for killing someone in self-defense, a law is needed to guarantee it.

“Our intent is to protect crime victims who are in imminent danger of losing their lives,” said Jones, a former Eaton County sheriff. “This does not put more guns on the street. This will not create the OK Corral.”

The law is identical to the Florida measure, which allows people who feel threatened anywhere – on the street or even in public places such as a bar – to defend themselves with deadly force.

Without the threat of prosecution, some of the thousands of Michigan residents carrying concealed weapons may be more likely to use them, said Sarah Brady, chairwoman of the Brady Campaign.

The group is named for her and her husband, Jim, who as President Reagan’s press secretary was shot and severely injured during a 1981 assassination attempt.

“There are a lot more guns on the street and then you’re going to get the right to use them willy-nilly? That doesn’t bode real well,” Brady said during a telephone interview.

If it passes, Michigan would be the second state with such a measure. A similar bill has been introduced in Alabama, but lawmakers in that state are not scheduled to meet again until January 2006.

The legislation may win approval in the House and Senate, where half of each chamber was recently endorsed by the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, a statewide gun rights advocacy group.

It is unclear whether Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm would sign the legislation if it reached her desk. Spokeswoman Heidi Hansen said the administration is reviewing the two-bill measure.

Gun control activists in Michigan are calling their lawmakers and sending them postcards and e-mails to explain their opposition, said Shikha Hamilton, head of the state’s Million Mom March chapter.

“The scariest part is that you’re removing the duty to retreat. That’s really there to preserve ife,” said Hamilton.

“And if you take someone’s life you should have to answer to the police. – No one is in jail right now for protecting their family.”

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