The National Rifle Association owns the Florida Republican Party lock, stock and barrel. That is the only way to explain the Legislature's party-line votes to allow gun owners to secretly take their weapons to work and shopping. It is an outrageous infringement on private property rights and further puts Floridians at risk in an already dangerous world.
The third time was the charm for the NRA, which uncharacteristically failed to get its way the past two years. This time, the legislation passed with two significant changes. It specifically applies to gun owners with concealed weapons permits, and it shields employers from liability in civil lawsuits. That may have been enough for Republican legislators, but it is no comfort for the business community gearing up to lobby Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the bill.
Property owners ought to be able to determine how they will provide a secure environment for their workers and customers. They should be able to decide for themselves whether they are comfortable with easily accessible guns stored in cars out in their parking lots. If this bill becomes law, property owners won't just be unable to keep guns off their property. They won't even be able to find out how many guns are out there.
The identities of the roughly 487,000 concealed weapons permit holders in Florida already have been removed from the public record. Now this legislation prevents employers from asking employees or customers whether they have guns locked in their cars. They can't search the vehicles. They can't take action against employees or customers who volunteer they have a gun in their car. Employers and employees cannot even mutually agree that the worker will not bring a gun to work. This is a full-scale assault on property rights and the rights of all Floridians to choose to work and shop in a safe environment.
Take this extreme approach by gun zealots to its logical conclusion. If concealed weapons are fine in private parking lots, it won't be long before the argument is made that guns should be allowed inside. Large employers and retail outlets will reconsider whether they should hire armed security to be on equal footing with their workers and customers. Criminals will see parking lots as even more attractive targets because of the likelihood that they will find guns.
Is this the Wild West image Florida wants to promote as it tries to lure tourists and new business?
Crist has indicated he is inclined to go along with his fellow Republicans and sign this offensive bill into law. But the governor is a reasonable man, and he has demonstrated before that he is willing to listen to other views and reconsider his position. He should be as open-minded now and listen to the serious concerns of businesses and Floridians whose constitutional rights and safety would be violated by this NRA power play.