Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ruth: Sound and fury and gun control

There are likely some conservative corners of scenic Pasco County where even the tea party is considered a liberal tool of the Trilateral Commission meets the ACLU. • That may explain how the Pasco County Commission's unwillingness to have a commonsense discussion over closing the onerous gun show loophole — where anyone can circumvent a background check to purchase a weapon — turned into bickering over The Federalist Papers. • Yes, that sound you just heard was the Founding Fathers slapping their foreheads from the grave.

The issue before the commission didn't concern banning assault rifles or limiting magazine clips — topics that have polarized the debate over gun control. Closing the gun show loophole is embraced across the political spectrum.

This week, a Quinnipiac University poll showed 98 percent of Florida voters support universal background checks for gun purchases and 8 percent oppose. You would be lucky to find similar numbers in support of breathing. Do you suspect a good portion of that 8 percent resides in Pasco?

Earlier this month in Colorado — a gun-centric state hardly to be confused as a suburb of San Francisco — Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law a measure requiring universal background checks and a ban on magazines with more than 15 rounds.

In Pasco County, it would be easier to convince the commission to approve a resolution creating Black Plague Day than one approving universal background checks for fear of hovering black helicopters suddenly appearing over New Port Richey. Two weeks ago commissioners, on advice of county attorneys, tabled the issue saying they'll wait to see how lawsuits in other jurisdictions play out.

Nonetheless, the topic so vexed County Commissioner Jack Mariano that he attempted to offer a resolution calling for commissioners to express support for the Second Amendment. When that didn't gain any traction, Mariano cooked up a second resolution this week asking his colleagues to support the U.S. Constitution.

Of course all elected officials in the state take an oath of office affirming their fealty to the U.S. and Florida constitutions.

Mariano's resolution was the handiwork of the libertarian Tenth Amendment Foundation, which claims to be dedicated to "strictly limited government" and perhaps strictly limited critical thinking skills as well.

To commissioners' credit, knowing their votes could be exploited to smear them as anti-American, commissioners Pat Mulieri, Ted Schrader and Kathryn Starkey said no to Mariano's resolution. Only Commissioner Henry Wilson Jr. went along with Mariano's John Birch Society air-kiss.

All this could have been avoided. Instead of indulging Mariano, the Pasco County Commission could have taken public comment on whether to embrace universal background checks. In the end, the commission got an earful anyway.

At the same meeting where Mariano grandstanded, members of the public admonished commissioners for not doing their jobs, unless of course a major part of a commissioner's job is evading responsibility and obfuscation.

In that sense, Mariano got his referendum on the Constitution. The public showed up before the Pasco County Commission to exercise their constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances. Democracy is a wonderful thing. It can be noisy, too.


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