Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Slow, steady progress on sensible gun control

The gun debate following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre focused on the biggest possible changes that ultimately failed to pass the Florida Legislature, including banning automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines, and expanding criminal background checks. But smaller steps that were adopted are helping, and it’s clear that preventing more mass shootings requires multiple approaches.

The new state law enacted following the Parkland shooting that killed 17 includes a new tool for the justice system to remove firearms from those who are a threat to themselves or to others. While some critics painted it as a threat to Second Amendment rights, early signs in Tampa Bay indicate it is being applied judiciously and in cases where public safety should be the overriding concern.

For example, a Hillsborough County man had his guns taken away after he drank too much, argued with his girlfriend and followed her to her sister’s home, where arrest reports say he was armed with a rifle and pistol, kicked in the door and vowed: "I’m going to kill all of you and then kill myself."

Hillsborough courts have logged six risk protection cases. Pinellas County has had seven; Pasco County, three. Police who seek a risk protection order meet privately with a judge, who can issue a temporary order to seize the weapons. A public hearing follows within two weeks. Law enforcement bears the burden of proving by convincing evidence that the person is a violent risk. If a judge is persuaded, the order becomes final for a year. The lawbalances due process rights with a recognition that guns pose a unique danger. U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have pushed bipartisan legislation that would encourage other states to pass similar laws.

The Hillsborough County Commission also responded to the Parkland tragedy by extending the waiting period to purchase a firearm in the county to five days from three. While state law bars local governments from enacting gun laws, that statute is trumped by the state Constitution, which mandates a three-day waiting period and gives counties the option to extend it to five.

A report by the Tampa Bay Times’ Laura C. Morel last week also showed that Hillsborough leads the state in submitting the names of people with mental health histories who are banned from buying firearms. Today, 47 states require a review of mental health records during gun background checks. But other jurisdictions that don’t take this job seriously create gaps in the system, enabling those who shouldn’t have a gun to possess one. Florida’s auditor general concluded in 2016 that many counties don’t comply with reporting obligations. Nearly 20 percent of mental health records are entered late into the background check database, according to a report by Politico. Now the state is asking the Justice Department to fund a project in Miami-Dade aimed at ensuring clerks report the information within one month.

There are many moving parts to make the nation safer from gun violence. It will take reforms big and small, and the concerted effort by public officials to follow through on laws and regulations already aimed at keeping guns from the wrong hands.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18