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NRA hits target for hypocrisy with new Florida law

If you've ever seen a shouting match erupt among adrenaline-amped basketball players at Brooksville's Tom Varn Park, I bet this thought never crossed your mind: Boy, I wish everybody here was armed.

And who out there thinks toddlers at the park's playground would be safer with a few pistols stashed in parents' diaper bags? And will you joggers be comforted to know that an approaching walker on an isolated stretch of the fitness trail might be carrying a concealed weapon? I didn't think so.

See, parks are supposed to be safe, welcoming places. For most reasonable people — including, in recent years, members of the Brooksville City Council and the Hernando County Commission — that means these public gathering spots should be free of gunfire: Both the city and county have well-established bans on firearms at parks.

State gun laws, which don't include any such prohibitions, trump local ordinances, so these city and county rules probably didn't carry much weight.

But the bullies at the National Rifle Association and their obliging friends in the state Legislature (including all four lawmakers who represent Hernando) made absolutely sure of that last session, pushing through a law that imposes a $5,000 fine on any local government official who tries to uphold firearms bans in parks or public buildings.

Think about it: A police officer could be fined a substantial portion of his or her annual salary for enforcing a rule that, in the city's case, carried a maximum penalty of being asked to leave the park.

Faced with such a threat, not surprisingly, the council scratched the ban from its park policy earlier this month. On Monday night, it also eliminated a law that forbade the sale of ammunition and firearms during natural disasters and other emergencies.

The county ban doesn't need to be changed because it already includes a phrase excluding anyone who is "authorized by law" to carry a weapon in a park. And now, clearly, gun owners with concealed weapons permits are "authorized."

But many other Florida cities and counties, like Brooksville, have been forced to scrap their bans, according to a UPI.com news story the NRA proudly posted on its website.

I don't think Brooksville's rule kept a lot of people from carrying weapons, and I don't think that lifting it means every old guy pitching horseshoes at Tom Varn will suddenly start packing heat.

And maybe the NRA's hypocrisy has been pointed out so often that nobody needs to do it again.

But I will, just because the organization seems to get bolder every year, and its opposition quieter and more intimidated.

So let's note one more time that the group's sacred text, the Second Amendment, says the right to bear arms "shall not be infringed," and that, meanwhile, the NRA is the biggest infringer around.

In Florida, it has infringed on business owners who want to keep guns off their premises, on doctors who try to have confidential talks with patients and on local governments safeguarding residents.

Assuming gun owners value these rights of privacy, personal property and small governments to stand up to big ones, I wonder when they'll start telling the NRA what it tells everyone else: Stay the heck out of our business!

NRA hits target for hypocrisy with new Florida law 08/18/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 18, 2011 8:57pm]
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