In Tallahassee's warped worldview, weaponry trumps all

Legislators and NRA want more guns everywhere

Another year, another round of gun law lunacy in Tallahassee.

This time, legislators might allow teachers and principals to pack heat in schools. They might loosen the already loose Stand Your Ground law to allow gun owners to fire warning shots if they feel threatened in public. And they don't want to revisit a 2011 law that prohibits local regulations on guns and punishes local elected officials who enact gun ordinances stricter than state law.

So now we have an absurd and frightening landscape where a backyard gun range can sprout in a dense residential area, and local officials would be powerless to stop it unless they risked being thrown out of office and fined by the state.

In Florida, local governments can regulate petty things like where you can plant a home garden or what kind of fence you can have, but not where a homeowner's bullets might fly.


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Sunrise mayor Mike Ryan has called the 2011 law "draconian and anti-democratic," and he pointed out the looming safety concerns in recent letters to Gov. Scott. The governor's response: Wait for a pending lawsuit on the issue to play out.

In 2011, the Legislature passed another law — thankfully struck down as unconstitutional by a judge — that banned doctors from asking patients (or parents of minors) about guns in the house. The state is still appealing that ruling.

It seems our trigger-happy legislators can't help from following the marching orders of the National Rifle Association. The NRA's response to repeated gun massacres like Newtown and Aurora is to have more guns in more places with fewer restrictions.

Or as NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre told an annual gathering of conservatives in Washington, D.C., last week, "There is no greater freedom than the right to survive, and to protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want."

If the standard definition of a liberal is somebody who thinks problems can be solved with money, the emerging definition of a conservative is somebody who thinks problems can be solved with guns.

Besides the bill that would allow teachers and principals to bring guns to school, there's an ongoing effort to chip away at gun restrictions on college campuses. Some colleges now allow guns locked in cars. Open Carry, a Florida gun rights group, has sued to let students have guns in dorm rooms.

Legislators have also shot down efforts to undo the controversial Stand Your Ground law after the high-profile shooting deaths of two unarmed youths, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, in separate incidents. Stand Your Ground, enacted last decade, expanded the right to use lethal force in public places without a duty to retreat. Floridians already had that right in their homes under the self-defense law known as the Castle Doctrine.

The practical effect, as we have seen, is to promote a shoot-first mentality that often excuses reckless or aggressive conduct.

And now the Legislature wants to allow warning shots? Yee-haw.

Look, people like Ryan (and me) don't want to rescind the constitutional right to bear arms. If hunters and gun enthusiasts want to collect guns, that's fine. If a woman who works at night feels safer with a gun at her side, that's fine. If a homeowner feels protected with a gun in his nightstand, that's fine.

We just want some common sense. Gun absolutists seem to forget that the phrase "well regulated" is part of the second amendment.

Our off-target Legislature seems to be aiming for unregulated.

mmayo@tribune.com; 954-356-4508

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