Saturday, February 17, 2018
Opinion

Sheriff pulls trigger on half-baked NRA quiz

It is probably not too far of a stretch to suggest that whatever their skills or shortcomings, no one would accuse any of Florida's sheriffs of being a bunch of lefty-leaning, pinko, Marxist, crime-loving, evildoer-coddling Abbie Hoffmans with a badge.

And it's also reasonable to argue that not one of the state's sheriffs should have to take so much as 30 seconds to justify their criminal justice bona fides to the National Rifle Association's Marion Hammer, the walking star chamber of the Second Amendment.

So let's give an attaboy to Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee, who recently responded to a half-baked questionnaire cooked up by Hammer by essentially telling the NRA's Torquemada of Tallahassee that she was full of … uh, beans.

If only the rest of the state's poltroon of pols who love to proclaim their toughness only to wilt to Hammer had Gee's backbone to stand up to the NRA's demagoguery. Then perhaps Florida wouldn't have its embarrassing reputation for being the gun nut capital of the country.

By any standard Gee is a rock-ribbed conservative Republican. He's a lifelong gun owner, and he has run an efficient, scandal-free sheriff's office. The last person he should have to answer to when it comes to upholding the law is a Smith & Wesson Skull and Bones Society.

So before Gee folded Hammer's "Do you still beat your wife?" questionnaire into a paper airplane, the sheriff told the NRA's cartel of cartridges just what he thought of the feeble intimidation effort at Second Amendment purity politics.

Hammer's thinly veiled diatribe against gun control raised Florida's absurd "stand your ground" law. It asked if Gee either agreed that people have a right to defend themselves, or did he believe "stand your ground" is wrong and individuals should simply surrender themselves to criminals. Sigh.

But the "Mommie Dearest" of the NRA was only getting warmed up. She asked questions designed to get Gee to agree that law enforcement officials should not involve themselves in the legislative process by opposing or supporting bills impacting their offices. The predicate for Hammer's problems with law enforcement experts petitioning their government seems to be the Florida Sheriffs Association's opposition last year to a bill that would have permitted gun owners to openly carry their little guns in public.

Then-Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats led the charge against the measure, which eventually failed in the Legislature. Hammer wanted to know if Gee thought it was "appropriate" for sheriffs and deputies to "lobby against the Second Amendment rights of the law-abiding citizens they were sworn to protect." Since the Legislature is a wholly owned subsidiary of lobbyists like Hammer, it's understandable why she didn't appreciate the competition.

In his response to the NRA's double-barreled busy-body, Gee noted the questionnaire was "confusing, cumbersome, or misleading," and loaded with "trick questions." He reminded Hammer the courts have upheld an individual's constitutional right to own firearms, which he is legally and morally bound to defend. Translation: If you bothered to read anything else in the U.S. Constitution but the Second Amendment, you wouldn't ask so many inane questions.

Gee properly defended the right of law enforcement officials to present their views in Tallahassee. Hammer would know that if she bothered to read the First Amendment.

It always has been one of the great disconnects with reality — and rationality — that while Hammer gets her bandolier in a wad over protecting "law-abiding citizens," the NRA takes great pains to make the job of those charged with upholding law and order more difficult and dangerous.

In her cover letter to the sheriff, Hammer warns, "No endorsement of support will be provided to a candidate who fails to return the questionnaire." Ask Gee if he is worried about currying the favor of the NRA's Politburo of Bullets.

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