In a state gone gun-mad, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee just showed us a moment of sanity.
And maybe a glimmer of hope that a powerful gun lobby doesn't have every politician shamelessly slathering for its approval, no matter how crazy the legislation of the moment.
That's crazy as in an open-carry law that could have meant pistol-packing in plain sight at your local gas station. That's crazy as in a law that banned doctors from discussing gun ownership with patients, thankfully overturned by a federal judge in another brief glimpse of sanity.
So it should be no surprise the National Rifle Association and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida recently sent sheriffs up for re-election and their challengers a "candidate questionnaire." The timing has to do with sheriffs speaking up in Tallahassee against what they saw as a dangerous law.
Yes, the NRA is an advocacy group that lobbies fiercely for its cause. And yes, it's their questionnaire.
So let the question slanting begin:
On the controversial "stand your ground" law under attack by "anti-gun agitators": "Do you agree that no victim of crime should be required to surrender his life, health, safety, personal dignity, autonomy or property to a criminal …?"
Do you think it proper for sheriffs to lobby "against the Second Amendment rights of the law abiding citizens they are sworn to serve?"
And how do you like that job of yours? (Okay, I made that last one up.)
The survey promises "no trick questions," and true enough, since the answers likely to win endorsements couldn't be more clear if they were marked with big red bull's-eyes.
Gee, admittedly pretty safe this election since he faces only one challenger who calls himself "Grumpy Bob," did not check yes or no. Instead, he wrote a letter to formidable NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer explaining his positions via Supreme Court cases, the Constitution and oh yeah, his decades in law enforcement.
He wrote about the right to keep and bear arms and also how it is not without some limitation. He wrote about his responsibility to follow existing law. And he wrote about how experienced law enforcement officers have a duty to assist lawmakers.
"Politics and special interests aside, our elected representatives and the people of this state are entitled to the truth," he wrote.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri filled out the survey (likely losing points for his "no" to open-carry.) He checked "yes" on "stand your ground," but told me he also thinks current law needs revising. "The world's not black and white," he says. His opponent Everett Rice got a thumbs up from the NRA.
Gee says his letter wasn't meant to pick a fight, and that he hopes Hammer reads it "as a logical, reasonable person" and sees some of his points. The sheriff ought not bet the farm.
Hammer told me more than 100 sitting sheriffs and challengers returned surveys, and only a small few are making a fuss. "They're politicians," she said. "They ask for money, they ask for support, they ask for votes. People have a right to know where they stand on issues important to them."
Fair enough. So now we know we have a sheriff who stands for the Second Amendment and the law, for reasonable discourse and reasonable limitation. And apparently against political bullying, too.