Now that Florida legislators are once again debating how and where state residents can and cannot go carrying a gun, a new wrinkle has been added to the discussion by a bill just filed by a longtime, pro-gun State Senator named Greg Steube. He’s been in the legislature for six years and this year chairs the Judiciary Committee where pro-gun bills died in 2015 and 2016, but he’s going to really lead the fight for SB 140, which would allow guns on college campuses, as well as in airports and public meetings.
The bill has attracted the usual attention from both sides of the gun debate, particularly in the wake of the Fort Lauderdale shooting in January which killed five and injured a dozen more. But lost in the controversy over this piece of legislation is another bill filed by Steube himself, SB 610, which if enacted, would allow someone who voluntarily left his gun behind when he entered a ‘gun-free’ establishment to sue the owner if they were injured by someone who entered the same location with a gun and proceeded to blast away.
Now the way this crazy law would work is that if an owner decided that his establishment should be free of guns, he could always avoid litigation after a shooting if he elected some kind of reasonable strategy to keep his disarmed patrons out of harm’s way, such as hiring an armed guard or maybe installing a metal-detector at the front door. You may recall, incidentally, that there was an armed guard at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, who traded gunfire with the shooter before the latter then barricaded himself at the rear of the club. Fat lot of good the armed security guard (an off-duty cop) did for the 102 club patrons who were killed or wounded in that attack.
Know how all the really crazy stuff like half-and-half and Ronald Reagan first appears in California and then spreads nationwide? When it comes to the worst laws for encouraging gun violence, they start in Florida; i.e., laws that promote CCW and Stand Your Ground (SYG.) But this law is the craziest and worst sop to Gun-nut Nation of any gun law that has ever been introduced, because you can make the argument that under certain circumstances and with proper training, a responsible individual might be allowed to walk around with a gun. As for SYG, while those laws have exacerbated gun violence when the alleged assailant happens to be black, the law itself doesn’t speak to the issue of what kind of weapon might be used to make it easier for someone to remain in place against an attack, it just makes it easier to claim self-defense.
This crazy law, on the other hand, is built entirely around the idea that a person who voluntarily gives up access to a gun should therefore expect the individual whose establishment has a no-gun policy to protect him if he suffers an injury due to an “unlawful or reckless act.” Now let’s say I’m standing in a bar and someone next to me jiggles the drink I have in my hand and the contents of the glass spill out and soil my new shirt. The whole point of gun-free zones is that if I’m armed and slightly drunk, there’s a good chance that I might pull out my gun. In the brilliant words of Lester Adelson: “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.” This is what a gun-free zone is designed to prevent – the all-too-often escalation of an argument into a horrific injury or a death because someone had a gun.
Gun-nut Nation’s obsession with ridding the country of gun-free zones is based on no credible research showing that armed citizens make a difference in protecting us from crime. But tell that to Senator Steube and the other gun-nut supporters from the Gunshine State.