Ruth: Putnam panders on concealed weapons permits

SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
Adam Putnam, Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture, and Governor Rick Scott attend a joint session of the Florida Legislature, 1/9/18.
SCOTT KEELER | Times Adam Putnam, Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture, and Governor Rick Scott attend a joint session of the Florida Legislature, 1/9/18.
Published February 5
Updated February 5

Poor Adam Putnam. There he was, the Opie of Smith & Wesson, happily bouncing along toward the Republican nomination for governor and being a gleeful shill for the National Rifle Association.

Before you could utter, "Say hello to my little friend," he would be sitting pretty in the Governorís Mansion, playing Call of Duty: Black Ops all day long and pretending to be a macho, macho man.

But now Putnam has encountered a problem.

At the moment, the agriculture commissioner is facing two likely opponents who have positioned themselves even further to the right. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has begun to appeal to the Joe Arpaio wing of the party by airing a racist, fear-mongering commercial that stokes fears that illegal immigrants are stalking our neighborhoods and daily murdering white women.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has declared his candidacy, has become something of a beefcake boy for Fox News, which has ordained him as the great conservative hope for Florida.

Putnam still hasnít found much love from the Fox News/Sean Hannity/Rush Limbaugh axis of crazy. What to do?

Days ago, in an effort to demonstrate he can be even more bonkers than Corcoran and DeSantis (no small task), Putnam began promoting a proposal to amend Floridaís gun laws to allow a concealed carry permit to be issued even before an applicantís criminal background check is complete.

That level of groveling to the gun lobby ought to earn Putnam an invite to appear on Fox C-lister Tucker Carlsonís show. At least itís a start.

Putnam snuck the "Background check! We donít need no stinking background check finished!" deep into a 114-page bill regulating stuff like livestock, telephone solicitations and oyster harvesting. Oh, the mischief that happens in the dead of night in Tallahassee.

The Glock in every pot bill easily passed in the Florida House, which would probably look approvingly on bazooka sales to hunt down squirrels.

In the Senate, the legislation was sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, who went into full tut-tut mode in explaining to the Tampa Bay Timesí Steve Bousquet that this is not an effort to make it easier for people to get guns, even though it would make it easier for people to get guns.

This is Tallahassee after all, where the self-evident is often the victim of self-delusion.

Florida already has issued some 1.8 million concealed weapons permits. Itís not as if these things are all that hard to get as long as the recipient has a functioning pulse and can pass a simple criminal background check. This is hardly an onerous standard.

Yet, Eric Friday of Florida Carry makes the argument that a delayed criminal background check is a horrible burden to impose upon a citizenís Second Amendment rights.

Indeed, Florida Carry had threatened to sue Putnam over delays in issuing concealed carry permits, which affect less than 1 percent of the more than half-million applications submitted every year. Still, Putnam wilted under even a dubious threat to sue him, tossing air kisses in the general direction of the NRA.

Weíre not exactly dealing with Tallahasseeís lion of public safety here.

Indeed, Putnam boastfully hypes his political ambitions by noting he is a "proud NRA sellout," more than willing to serve as a cabana boy to the NRAís Tallahassee chief cheerleader, Marion Hammer.

It is fairly rare to see a politician so openly candid about how easily he can be bought off by anyone with a checkbook.

Since Putnam essentially has acknowledged he doesnít care about making sure people with red flags on their background checks canít possess a concealed carry permit, whatís next?

To recast himself as even more extreme than Corcoran and DeSantis, will Putnam start advocating for a return of witch trials? Probably best not to give him any ideas.

What are the odds that if we had a background check system protecting us from "sellouts," politicians like Adam Putnam would pass the test?