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Daniel Ruth

Carrying gun rights to a dangerous extreme

It is probably not much of a stretch to suggest that if the National Rifle Association's Marion Hammer, the Lady Macbeth of Tallahassee, wanted the Florida Legislature to require every citizen to own a gun, it wouldn't be long before nuns would be forced to pack Tech-9s along with their rosary beads.

There are reasons why Hammer regards the Legislature as her personal bonbon box of happily willing factotums. Law and order sells. Crime sells. And fear never goes out of fashion. So it is understandable that Hammer's compliant charm bracelet of pols are ready to accommodate the NRA's desire to allow anyone who possesses a concealed weapons permit to openly carry firearms in public.

What fun it will be to peruse the broccoli at Publix standing next to a yahoo with a Rambo complex.

Politicians, much like the ones who can be found neatly stuffed into Hammer's bandoleer, love to embrace the law-and-order shtick, casting themselves as crusading public safety centurions who are tough on criminals and simply madly, head-over-heels in love with cops.

Glad-handers running for office can't surround themselves with too many badges. As we know all too well, these men and woman put their lives on the line for us every day. They are to be admired. They are to be respected and, most of all, with their front-line experience, they certainly are to be listened to — until they cross hairs with the Evita of Smith & Wesson.

One of Hammer's arguments for turning the state into Deadwood is that a law-abiding citizen with a concealed weapons permit is at risk of being tossed into the hoosegow if he is walking down the street when the wind blows his jacket open, exposing a holstered .44 Magnum little friend.

It doesn't matter that Hammer's predicate is ludicrous. It was good enough for the House and Senate criminal justice committees. And it will be good enough for Gov. Rick Scott, although the Mommie Dearest of Remington could have pouted she wanted the open carry law passed "just because," and that would have been good enough.

It mattered even less that the state's law enforcement community — those folks regarded by the candidates as little more than campaign props — strongly argued against the bill, including the sheriffs of Pinellas, Hillsborough and Polk counties, who only have more than 100 years of collective experience wearing the uniform. Well, what do they know?

More visible weapons would provoke more crimes of opportunity, the sheriffs noted. The lawmakers didn't care.

More people running around exposing their weapons would be intimidating to others and endanger tourism, the sheriffs explained. The lawmakers didn't care.

More accessible guns would make it easier for children to get their hands on them, the sheriffs argued. The lawmakers didn't care.

What if officers arrive at a crime scene and discover a bunch of folks with guns? Which ones are the bad guys? Which ones are just people pretending to be macho? Unpleasantness can ensue, the sheriffs warned. The lawmakers didn't care.

In a perverse sense, it might be a good thing this legislation was so easily advanced. It exposes the hypocrisy of Tallahassee's wholly owned subsidiary of the weapons lobby. It is more willing to disrespect the professional counsel of the state's law enforcement community and sacrifice the quaint notion of public safety than stand up to the NRA's political clout and checkbook.

It is noteworthy that even with the passage of the Travis Bickle "You Talkin' To Me?" Open Carry Law, government offices are still exempt from its provisions. Members of the Florida Legislature may be Marion Hammer's trigger-happy toadies, but they aren't completely stupid.

Carrying gun rights to a dangerous extreme 03/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 17, 2011 8:12pm]

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