Turning the Legislature into a panic room

When the Legislature allowed folks armed to the teeth to roam about government buildings, its supporters acted as if the O.K. Corral Act of 2011 was as benign as permitting the free and open display of boutonnieres.

After all, why shouldn't someone entering the Capitol be able to bring along their little concealed friends, Smith & Wesson?

It's probably just a coincidence, then, that Senate security now feels it necessary to install panic buttons on the phones of every senator and staff member. What should we call this? The "Crazy as a Loon App"?

There's a perfectly good reason to provide panic buttons. This is Tallahassee. This is state government, which has all the potential to attract folks who are, how to put this as politically correct as possible, nuts.

And those are just the members of the House and Senate. Then there are all the other visitors to the Capitol — lobbyists, reporters, special interest groups and the occasional oddball who wants to discuss all the black helicopters, jack-booted storm troopers and alien life forms plotting against him.

Still, the Florida Legislature thought it would be a perfectly swell idea to allow budding Travis Bickles-in-Waiting to freely move about the state government complex locked and loaded.

Oh sure, there are exceptions. Gun-toting yahoos are supposed to hang up their holsters if they want to enter the Senate and House chambers, as well as committee rooms. But Tally's Yosemite Sams are now allowed to enter the offices of Senate and House members or anywhere else in the Capitol accompanied by their little friends, Glock & Colt.

Why is that? If an aspiring Rambo is considered harmless enough to enter an elected representative's office packing his Roscoe, why shouldn't he also be welcomed in the House or Senate visitors' gallery nicely turned out with a Tech 9?

The noted literary icon, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, issued a formal tut-tut over the installation of the duck-and-cover panic buttons. He insisted the gizmos were in the works long before the Legislature passed its Bring Your Gat to Work Act of 2011.

But only now were security officials, who had to know it was only a matter of time before the NRA's Marion Hammer would show up with her Bambi fur bandoliers, finally getting around to activating the darn things.

The House, by the sheer force of its greater numbers and thus the greater likelihood of having even more creepy people with bulges under their armpits attending its proceedings, is also exploring the possibility of activating its own "I'm getting vewy, vewy angry app" panic buttons on its phones.

Permitting people with concealed weapons to access the hallways of government was predicated on the specious argument that possessing a concealed weapons permit is evidence of trustworthiness on the part of the holder. Fiddle-faddle.

Simply because someone has not been convicted of a crime, or violated drug and alcohol laws, or has taken and passed safety courses, doesn't mean he can't be certifiably bonkers.

The business of government — for better or worse — managed to percolate along just fine without armed and unknown people ambling through the Capitol with their little friends, Beretta and Ruger.

During every legislative session some hot issue arises. Emotions can run hot. And into this mix the Florida Legislature thought it would be a splendid idea to invite people into the Capitol with concealed weapons. Brilliant. This is supposed to be the Florida Legislature, not the Gaza Strip Assembly.

If you think this is much ado about nothing, tune into a city council or county commission meeting and watch the public comment portion, which often attracts some of the scariest people ranting and raving over the minutiae of governance you'll ever see outside a Tim Dorsey novel.

How much of a disconnect with reality is this?

Try getting through an airport screening with a pen knife and you could find yourself sharing a cell in Guantanamo.

But only in Tallahassee, the land where common sense goes to die, would the powers-that-be make it easier for people carrying concealed weapons to enter and freely move about a government building.

Panic buttons? We don't need no stinking panic buttons. In the immortal words of Laurel and Hardy, what could possibly go wrong?

Turning the Legislature into a panic room 12/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 8, 2011 4:42pm]

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