Thursday, January 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: On guns, enforce laws on the books

The startling revelation that local governments in Florida have systematically failed to enforce ordinances that require background checks on all gun purchases, including those at gun shows, underscores the unacceptable ambivalence among too many leaders when it comes to keeping guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill. But until congressional leaders heed public sentiment that supports background checks for all gun buyers, it will be up to state and local leaders to bring some common sense to gun control. Connecticut did so last week, and now it's time for leaders in seven Florida counties to at least enforce the laws already on the books.

Nearly four months after the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., the nation remains oddly bifurcated. Poll after poll has shown that the vast majority of Americans support President Barack Obama's call for universal background checks of gun buyers' criminal and mental histories. Slimmer margins that support limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines and assault-style weapons have eroded as the National Rifle Association has continued its relentless lockdown in Washington and state capitals like Tallahassee.

Even the latest ray of hope out of Washington for universal background checks — a bipartisan plan pushed by Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — will carve out exemptions for sales between family members and some hunters.

Fifteen years ago in Florida, it was not nearly so difficult. As the Tampa Bay Times' Peter Jamison detailed on Sunday, months after a volatile felon named Hank Earl Carr of Tampa stockpiled a cache of weapons and killed three law enforcement officers and a 4-year-old boy, Florida voters in November 1998 overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment allowing counties to enact their own universal background check ordinances and expand the waiting period for gun buys. Eleven counties responded, though four later repealed the measures. But seven of Florida's most populous counties — including Pinellas and Hillsborough — that represent 45 percent of all Floridians still have the measures on the books. Not that the ordinances do any good.

Jamison found that in county after county, law enforcement officials have largely ignored or wholly forgotten ordinances that require private sellers to work with a federally licensed dealer to insure a buyer is not a felon or otherwise disqualified from owning a gun. Dealers and sellers argued the process was cumbersome, and law enforcement officials seemed to suggest they don't have the manpower to enforce it. Critics argue such a patchwork of ordinances still won't prevent illegal buyers from crossing county lines to purchase a gun elsewhere — a reason that the broader national solution remains ideal.

But until Congress demonstrates a commitment to commonsense gun regulation, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee should work with their respective county commissions to revise their ordinances so they are enforceable. And local gun dealers should embrace the chance to prove that their profession is part of the solution of keeping guns out of the wrong hands. Pinellas and Hillsborough counties have universal background check requirements for purchasing guns. It's past time to use them.

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Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18