Thursday, July 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Trump’s encouraging message on guns

With most Floridians focused on the Legislature’s struggles to pass a school safety bill, President Donald Trump has advanced the gun control debate nationally by embracing proposals to strengthen criminal background checks and raise the minimum age for buying rifles nationwide. It’s never certain whether this president will stick to his position or reverse course in a tweet, but for now there is a glimmer of hope in Washington for reasonable gun control. These steps would plug crucial gaps in gun laws regardless of what happens in Tallahassee, and they would bring the balance between gun rights and safety more in line with public opinion.

Trump’s remarks last week during a meeting with members of Congress that was broadcast live surprised both Republicans and Democrats. He supported a series of gun control measures long opposed by the National Rifle Association, calling for raising the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21 and expanding background checks to include buyers of weapons at gun shows, on the internet or through private sales. He also called for stronger approaches, including the expanded use of police power, to seize weapons from unstable individuals.

Just like Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders, Trump refused to call for a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. Just like state legislators, he joined the NRA in pushing to arm teachers in the schools — a terrible idea that would not make campuses safer. Still, increasing the age requirement for buying rifles and closing the loopholes on gun purchases are solid ideas that would enhance public safety. And by looking to Congress to change federal law, Trump is creating an opportunity to apply better safeguards at the national level.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who attended the session with the president, apparently was unmoved by Trump’s call. In a speech Thursday on the Senate floor, Rubio took a far narrower approach by calling for new federal grants to harden schools, crisis teams of teachers to better identify campus threats, new resources to crack down on straw gun buyers and fill gaps in the background reporting system, and court restrictions to remove guns from those suspected of posing a danger.

Virtually all of these measures Rubio embraced enjoy bipartisan support and are reflected in state legislation that advanced in Florida. To the extent his suggestions would enhance the federal response, agencies already have authority to correct many of these gaps in the system. Rubio suggested he is open to debating more serious measures, such as raising the age limits to buy a rifle and limits on high-capacity magazines. But that’s little more than acknowledging the broad public support for those changes rather than providing the leadership needed at this moment.

Trump tends to toss out proposals for dramatic effect, then switch positions when it suits him. But the president should continue to stand up to the NRA and encourage Congress to at least make these modest changes in raising the age limit for buying rifles and closing the so-called gun show loophole. Voters and prominent business leaders have made it clear they support those reforms, and they should keep making their voices heard.

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Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inco...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Florida’s clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trump’s resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports — everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseball’s future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18