Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Politics

Column: Gun bills continue to see little resistance from Legislature

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There are few sure bets when it comes to your state Legislature.

Education is forever a minefield, and gambling remains divisive. Dropping dead on the House floor might reignite the health care debate, but I wouldn't count on that either.

No, if you're a lawmaker looking to increase your legislative batting average, there is really only one issue that has a guarantee of safe passage:

Whip out a gun bill.

The details are never important. It could be about the concealment of guns or the economics of guns. It could be about guns for hunting or protection. Even the need to address guns made out of a breakfast pastry is a topic we're willing to address.

The current session has seen at least 12 gun bills introduced between the Senate and House, and every single one seems to have Tallahassee's rubber stamp of approval.

I may have missed a raised hand here or there, but it looks like these bills have moved on with about 81 percent of the vote in committee and floor votes. Not a single one has died.

Should you be alarmed by that? Yes and no.

A lot of these bills are harmless. Some are pretty effective. But every so often, the National Rife Association tries to sneak one past that could have serious ramifications.

This year, the award goes to the guns-and-riots bill.

The House passed a bill that effectively gives people the right to carry a concealed weapon whenever a state of emergency is declared for a storm or a riot.

On the surface, this law has some appeal. There is a sense of vulnerability during evacuations and having a gun nearby could be a source of comfort.

The problem is in the details. The bill is written so broadly that it practically invites unintended consequences.

For instance, there is virtually no way law enforcement can distinguish between someone truly evacuating and someone taking advantage of the evacuation law.

You certainly can't judge by the direction they're heading. Someone driving toward a riot or toward evacuated beach homes can claim they were picking up friends or relatives. Or they can say they were lost. Or taking a shortcut.

And what if there is an evacuation order on Monday in Miami? Does that give South Florida residents permission to carry a concealed weapon in St. Petersburg on Tuesday?

No one is saying you should have to leave your weapons behind in an evacuation. While speaking for the Florida Sheriffs Association in opposition of the bill, Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford specifically said it's a good idea to remove weapons from the home in case of evacuation.

The key is in the concealed-carry part of the equation.

There is an argument to be made for people taking their guns out of their homes during an evacuation and keeping it locked in a glove compartment or case. It's a different debate when you suggest they be allowed to tuck it into their waistband.

There is a reason the state requires permits to carry concealed weapons. Finger prints. Background checks. Photo IDs. Safety classes. A person with a concealed permit has to demonstrate a certain responsibility. Someone joyriding during a riot or a hurricane should not have the same privileges.

The truth is, the gun lobby already has prevailed on most of the biggest issues in Florida. At this point, they're just running up the score.

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