I was asked to write something ‘happy’ for today so here goes. The Gunshine State’s Senate has actually passed a gun law which regulates guns. Now you might think this is no big deal because the new law, as written (but not yet approved) puts no new rules on the ownership of black guns (not a racial term, it’s what we call assault rifles in the gun business) but several parts of the law are significant in terms of the potential impact on violence caused by guns.
More important, this is the first time since the last Ice Age that Florida has been in the forefront of what appears to be a national movement to tighten at least some gun restrictions, which is a complete turnaround since this state has always been a laboratory to test laws which will make it easier for everyone to exercise their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Florida was an early state to move from ‘may’ issue of concealed-carry permits to ‘shall’ issue; it was also the first state to pass a ‘stand your ground’ law, and it tried, ultimately unsuccessfully, to criminalize doctors who talked to patients about guns.
Not only does Florida lead the nation in developing pro-gun laws, it probably is also the state whose legislators file some of the dumbest and craziest gun laws that simply can’t be true. But they are true. I’m talking about a bill drafted by State Senator Greg Steube which makes the owner of a public space liable for damages if he declares his property to be a ‘gun free zone,’ and then a customer is shot because he couldn’t respond to an armed threat with his gun.
This law assumes, of course, that if an armed customer was confronted by a threat he would be able to protect himself from getting shot by dint of the fact that he had a gun on his person. Well, since we have a President who pretends to believe the same thing, why should we be surprised when a State Senator in Florida believes the same thing? The good news is that Steube’s bill is still sitting in the statehouse trash somewhere, but the fact that he could even dream up such a stupid idea gives you a hint as to why I am surprised that Florida may actually pass any kind of gun-control measure at all.
The new Florida statute contains language which increases the minimum age for long gun purchases from 18 to 21. It also extends the state’s three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to all guns, bump stocks are banned, and in a compromise, it allows school districts to arm certain individuals who are present in schools but does not authorize arming teachers because Governor Scott made it clear that he would oppose any such move.
Gun-control activists in Florida and elsewhere wanted much more; a ban on assault weapons as a start. But I’m not sure that this bill should be seen by my gun violence prevention (GVP) friends as a loss, and I’ll tell you why.
First and most important, if Florida legislators are willing to split away from the NRA on even the slightest grounds, this makes it easier for office-holders in states that have not been as subservient to America’s first civil-rights organization to do the same thing or more. Second and perhaps equally important is that the debate in Tallahassee on an assault weapons ban was notable for the fact that opponents of the measure didn’t try to convince anyone that an AR-15 was no different from any other ‘modern sporting rifle.’ That cockamamie idea, right out of the gun industry’s playbook, was decidedly left unsaid.
We will surely see more state-level gun debates in the weeks ahead, and I’m willing to bet that in some other reluctant state legislature somebody will stand up and say, “If they could pass a gun-control bill in Florida, why can’t we pass one here?” That’s a question are which has never been asked before.