Guns, traffic, and no Jesus Pizza in Pasco: The week that was

Published Jan. 22, 2016

Here was a reason given a couple of years ago to justify a law that would allow people to walk around with guns exposed at the beach or Gasparilla like Florida was the Wild West:

People with perfectly legal concealed-carry permits were being harassed and arrested by police for inadvertently exposing weapons, open-carry proponents said — like when the wind lifted someone's shirt or a gun poked from a hole of one man's shorts. And no, I'm not making that up.

The Florida Sheriffs Association this week announced a reasonable alternative to the highly controversial open-carry bill pending in Tallahassee: How about a proposal that would protect any legal permit holder who exposes his weapon truly by accident?

This would mean someone would have to intentionally, deliberately, openly and obviously violate concealed-carry law before he could be arrested. (Presumably this would be a person who clearly showed his weapon for a reason, not someone surprised by a sudden spring breeze.) The officer must allow the person to explain the circumstances. If the guy is arrested anyway — which seems unlikely, with a reasonable explanation — and it's later proved the gun was shown by accident, it's immediately expunged from his record.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri calls this a tight proposal "that provides the penultimate protection for citizens."

And good luck with that. Already, he has heard from open-carry supporters in Tallahassee that this is less about accidental exposure than it being a constitutional right. NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer was quoted as saying sheriffs had years to correct problems they knew existed and said "not only no, but hell no" to their proposal.

But, hey, nice try. In Florida, reasonableness doesn't stand a chance against a gun.

Do not think you can fool the hellish mess that is Interstate 275 N from St. Petersburg into Tampa, where new lane alignments and the ill-timed loss of an exit-only lane are backing up traffic across the Howard Frankland Bridge. And will for six more weeks when new lanes are opened.

Silly me, I tried it on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, assuming traffic might be lighter. Ha! A 15-minute trip took three times that. Alternate routes are similarly suffering.

So there we sit, late for work, late to pick up the kids, stuck and frustrated. Drivers staring at that sea of brake lights have plenty of time to contemplate the region's need for a transportation plan that includes mass transit, unless we're willing to sit for decades to come.

A quote worth noting: "We're not having Jesus Pizza Day in the Pasco district."

— Pasco school superintendent Kurt Browning, after reports from neighboring Hillsborough of that district's ties to Idlewild Baptist Church — including church-coordinated training for principals and church logo shirts for teachers — and with a Christian group that aims to help students share the message of Christ and features a Jesus Pizza Day.

Browning welcomes Rotary Club-type involvement by religious groups, but doesn't see schools having a role in promoting any religion. Oh, and did you catch the part about how he's devoutly religious and a member of Idlewild himself? And also apparently familiar with separating church and state.