Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Romano: Open carry, campus carry — why not wait and see?

Gun rights groups gather at Gravelly Point across the Potomac River from the nation's capital for an "Open Carry Rally" April 19, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia. The groups gathered in a National Park area to publicly carry weapons as a demonstration of their constitutional rights to bear arms.  [Getty Images Files]

Gun rights groups gather at Gravelly Point across the Potomac River from the nation's capital for an "Open Carry Rally" April 19, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia. The groups gathered in a National Park area to publicly carry weapons as a demonstration of their constitutional rights to bear arms. [Getty Images Files]

The numbers, we have been told, are clear. No room for argument or interpretation.

Living in modern-day Florida is like strolling through the streets of Happyville, USA. The governor and the state's top law enforcement official announced last year that crime in Florida had dropped to levels not seen since the days of bell-bottom jeans.

And remarkably, in 2015, the crime rate has dropped even lower.

All of which raises an interesting point:

Why so trigger-happy?

To hear lawmakers in Tallahassee explain it, you run the risk of murder, rape and mayhem every time you open your front door. You should be packing heat everywhere you go, and preferably in a holster that everyone can see.

And yet our very own leaders swear we are safer than we have been since those Monday nights in the 1970s when the Doris Day Show followed Mayberry R.F.D. on CBS.

So why are we in such a hurry to pass a law that encourages bumpkins and CEOs alike to openly carry guns in public? Why are legislators insisting that it's a good idea to buck national trends and allow students to carry guns on college campuses?

Why are our politicians wetting their beds over exaggerated boogeymen?

"That's really what drives me crazy,'' said Andy Pelosi, executive director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. "There is no public clamoring for this. It's just a concerted effort by the gun lobby, and the legislators are following along.''

This isn't a suggestion that guns be restricted, or that criminals don't exist. It's just questioning the wisdom of expanding gun laws in ways that may not help.

This seems to be where we go off the rails when it comes to gun talks. Liberals warn about doomsday gun fights, and conservatives shout about constitutional rights. Statistical evidence gets overrun by anecdotal or theoretical arguments.

And this is why it might be a good time for Florida to hit the pause button.

Instead of pointing to Sandy Hook as a reason why we should arm everyone, and instead of pointing to Trayvon Martin as a reason why we should limit gun ownership, Florida would be better off waiting to see what happens in Texas in the coming years.

By population, geography, diversity and sensibilities, Texas is probably the closest thing Florida has to a sibling state. And our friends in the land of the Lone Star have been kind enough to leap without looking into the waters of looser gun laws.

Texas recently became the largest state in America to legalize both open carry and guns on college campuses. It has, in effect, become a comparable test study for Florida.

If conservatives are correct, crime rates in Texas should go down at a rapid pace. If liberals are correct, the unintended consequences should be plain to see.

Either way, we should have a better sense of whether it's a brilliant idea or an absolute disaster (or, more likely, somewhere in between) to have open carry in a large, Southern state with multiple metropolitan areas. Same goes for introducing guns on campus among dozens of unique colleges and universities.

Gun-happy lawmakers and bill sponsors such as Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, are probably not going to like the idea of a more logical and methodical approach to legislation, but they have no compelling evidence to suggest a hasty path needs to be taken.

The truth is Florida streets are safer today than they were 10 years ago. Or even 40 years ago. And the truth is college campuses are even safer than Florida streets.

Steube and Gaetz are ignoring the advice of law enforcement professionals across the state to instead pander to NRA lobbyists and their base.

They take advantage of highly publicized tragedies, and they use scare tactics to convince people that the world is not safe without a Glock within hand's reach.

And, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with either owning or carrying a handgun. The question is whether we need to make gun laws even more permissible.

Lawmakers are quick to point out that these proposed bills are only designed for residents with concealed weapons permits. The inference is that passing new gun-friendly laws makes perfect sense because it will only affect responsible gun owners.

But the way they're going about it doesn't seem all that responsible.

Romano: Open carry, campus carry — why not wait and see? 11/21/15 [Last modified: Saturday, November 21, 2015 7:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Four questions the Lightning still has to answer

    Lightning Strikes

    FORT LAUDERDALE — The Lightning made its biggest round of cuts Monday, with some of the big-named prospects heading out.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) looks on from the bench during a shift change at Lightning hockey training camp in Brandon on Monday (09/18/17). In background on right is Nikita Kucherov (86). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  2. Nine Florida football players, 62 felony complaints in fraud scandal


    GAINESVILLE — The fraud scandal that has engulfed the University of Florida's nationally ranked football team for weeks exploded Monday with the first detailed accounts of criminal accusations that threaten to derail the Gators' season.

    Florida Gators wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) runs the ball during the Outback Bowl in January at Raymond James Stadium. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  3. Where Rays shortstop Matt Duffy's lost season leads

    The Heater

    BRADENTON — In a perfect world Matt Duffy would have been in New York on Monday with his Rays teammates enjoying the final off day of the year. Instead, he was on Field 4 at Pirate City on a sweltering afternoon, trying to restart his season.

    Rays shortstop Matt Duffy plays in his first game (since rehab was aborted) with the club's instructional league on Monday at the Pirate City baseball field and spring training complex in Bradenton [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  4. Vinny Lecavalier's jersey retirement will be another classic Vinny moment

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — He was the face of the franchise. He was taken first overall in the 1998 NHL Draft by a franchise at the bottom. Art Williams, the nutty Tampa Bay Lightning owner at the time, proclaimed the 18-year-old from Ile Bizard, a Montreal borough, "the Michael Jordan of hockey."

    Vincent Lecavalier makes a break for the net while playing an exhibition game on Sunday (9/24/17) with the 2017 U.S. Women???‚??„?s National Team at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Lecavalier was the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2000???‚??€œ2001 season and between the 2008???‚??€œ2013 and spent his first 14 NHL seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning before signing with the Philadelphia Flyers.
  5. Pinellas licensing board loses support for staying independent

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board on Monday lost its strongest supporter for staying independent.

    State Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican running for governor, said Monday that he will no longer support any legislation to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board independent. This photo was taken in August. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]