1. Florida Politics

Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Protesters fill the 4th floor rotunda of the Florida Capitol outside of the House of Representatives demanding more strict gun laws in Florida. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
Protesters fill the 4th floor rotunda of the Florida Capitol outside of the House of Representatives demanding more strict gun laws in Florida. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Feb. 22, 2018

Gun advocates are absolutely right about this:

A ban on assault weapons will not end school shootings.

How do we know?

Because there was a federal ban on assault weapons for 10 years, and mass killings persisted. That's because a ban deals only with future sales, meaning millions of assault rifles remain in circulation.

And, yet, gun advocates are missing the bigger picture here.

Making it incrementally harder to acquire an assault weapon can be a good thing. Just as locking your house will not make you immune from burglars, it's still wise to use as many roadblocks as possible.

And this is where conservative lawmakers in the Florida House have a problem.

They have become so enslaved to NRA-friendly groups they can no longer distinguish between common sense and radical agendas. And, make no mistake, banning assault weapons is not a radical idea.

Do you know who was in favor of banning assault weapons?

Ronald Reagan.

And Gerald Ford.

And George H.W. Bush.

In fact, at one time or another, every U.S. president since 1975 was in favor of banning assault weapons. That includes Donald Trump, who wrote in favor of a ban in his 2000 book The America We Deserve.

Do you know who else is in favor?

A lot of sheriffs and police chiefs who don't like the idea of law enforcement officers walking into situations where they are outgunned by criminals.

So why would 71 members of the Florida House, with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High watching from the gallery, refuse to even have a debate about a possible assault weapon ban?

Because too many politicians have traded logic for talking points.

Somewhere along the line, we've allowed the gun lobby to convince us that it's un-American to put any limits on our ability to fire rapidly and repeatedly. In the process, we've created a bogus argument.

The truth is, an assault weapon ban is not an attack on the Second Amendment. It is deciding where to draw the line between legitimate hunting/home defense needs and weapons designed for military style-destruction.

I can assume most people are against selling civilians rocket launchers or tanks, right? Well, assault weapons are just a little nearer that line between overkill and acceptable.

And to claim that it's not even worthy of a debate is an insult. It's an insult to the families of the 17 children and teachers lost in Parkland. To the 49 families who lost loved ones in the Pulse nightclub shooting. And it's an insult to many Floridians who want to have this conversation.

Make no mistake, that's all Tuesday's vote was about. A conversation. They weren't voting on an actual ban, or even the parameters of a future ban. Republicans voted to shut down any talk of this topic on the House floor. These are the same people who found time to pass non-binding legislation identifying pornography as a public health hazard, but weren't willing to explore the role of guns in mass shootings.

Is there a knee-jerk element to all of this assault weapon talk?

Yes, there absolutely is.

Handguns kill far more people in this country than assault weapons. And it's true that someone determined to commit an atrocity will find some way to do it even without an AR-15.

But that doesn't change the reality that most of these assault weapons serve no redeeming purpose other than killing a lot of people in a minimal amount of time.

That's not a Second Amendment question.

That's a question of values.

Right now, a lot of legislators in the state House value the support of the gun lobby more than the concerns of everyday citizens. That's their right. They're the ones with the power today.

You're the one with the power in November.