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In Florida, an NRA-Dominated Legislature Steers Clear Of Gun-Control Conversation

| December 19, 2012

Florida will have to wait for gun control. (Dave Parker)

The tragic mass killing at a Connecticut school last week has produced a stream of ideas on gun control and school safety at the national level — but in contrast with other states, reaction in Florida has been muted, at least in the form of concrete legislation.

Gov. Rick Scott has called for school districts to review their safety procedures after the shooting, which left 20 students and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in addition to the shooter and his mother, who was killed at her home.

But no gun legislation has been introduced in either the Florida House or the Senate since the tragedy. Legislative Republicans, who have traditionally worked to expand gun rights, have largely steered clear of the issue. A spokeswoman for Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, responded vaguely to questions about whether the Senate was planning a legislative response.

“As a former school superintendent, Senator Gaetz supports Governor Scott’s call for Florida’s school districts to review emergency procedures and determine if there are ways to improve security in Florida schools and to communicate these actions with Florida’s families,” spokeswoman Katie Betta wrote in an email.

California legislators have introduced a bill that would require background checks for anyone buying ammunition. Michigan’s governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed concealed weapons in schools. Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm, announced on Monday that it would divest itself of any ownership in Freedom Group, the gunmaker that produces the AR-15, the most popular rifle in the United States and one of the weapons the Newtown shootist used in his killing spree. In Ohio, however, the governor signed a law that allows people to keep guns in their car at government buildings, and facilitates concealed weapons license renewals.

Florida Democrats have also seemed hesitant to introduce legislation, mindful that the GOP-dominated Legislature is unlikely to pass sweeping new laws to control firearms.

“You have to look at the recent history of the Legislature,” said Rep. Mark Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat who heads up his caucus’ policy efforts. “The Legislature is very, very pro-gun lobby.” (The National Rifle Association, one of the nation’s most powerful pressure groups, was largely instrumental in the drafting and passing of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.)

Some lawmakers are still talking about the possibility of firearms legislation. A spokesman for House Democrats said members were discussing how to respond to the shooting.

And Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, said his office was researching potential changes, including whether to transfer responsibility for background checks for concealed weapons permits from the Department of Agriculture to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Ideas for making it easier to check an applicant’s mental health history are also under consideration, Smith said.

“It’s not just the guns,” Smith said. “It’s the guns in the hands of people with mental illness.”

One Republican who spoke out on the issue of gun control Monday wound up trying to walk back statements he made seeming to suggest that guns should be allowed on school property.

“In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target,” House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said Monday, according to the Associated Press. “A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”

Baxley is telling constituents that he wasn’t trying to float a legislative proposal, his office said Tuesday. He also issued a media statement attempting to blunt the remarks.

“Our focus should be on the victims and their loved ones,” Baxley said. “Out of respect for them, we should not politicize a national tragedy. There will be plenty of time for debate in the near future.”

Even some Democrats say the larger issues, such as whether to limit access to high-capacity ammunition clips that can hold dozens of rounds, could be better handled on the federal level, instead of taking a state-to-state approach that could make rules harder to enforce.

“You don’t want a mish-mash of gun laws … by which all you have to do is (buy) a tank of gas and you have a different law apply,” said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith.

Pafford said the state should at least take a look at the resources it devotes to mental health, where Florida ranks as one of the lowest-spending states in the nation.

“If it’s easier to actually fund mental health in this state, let’s do that,” he said.

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida

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17 Responses for “In Florida, an NRA-Dominated Legislature Steers Clear Of Gun-Control Conversation”

  1. Stevie says:

    It’s clear we can’t expect the schools to protect our children, they can’t even educate them properly, they lie to them about our history, then they try to socially engineer them into repulsive lifestyles. I think the article makes sense, you wouldn’t want guns on school property in the hands of mentally unstable people.

  2. Nancy N. says:

    California has an interesting concept to approach it as ammo control instead of gun control.

    What about if we treated ammo the way we treat Sudafed products? To buy ammo, you have to produce a license that verifies you are the legally registered owner of that type of weapon. That prevents people from buying ammo for illegal weapons. And then, there are quantity limits per purchase and per month and purchases are registered just like we do with the cough syrup, to prevent trafficking.

    Also, we need to ban those large capacity magazines. There’s just no legitimate need for those.

    • JustMytThoughts says:


      Have you ever been to California? I’m from there. Try taking a trip to Oakland, San Francisco (mission district, hunters point, tenderloin). Hey there’s Richmond or Compton. Let’s not forget East LA. To many cities and districts to list. It truly is the wild west. Ban assault rifles, like drugs and you create an illegal market where criminals have the assault rifles, ozzie’s, and other Mexican goods. Just like the infamous war on drugs, and prohibition. The answer is not more laws, and California should not be used as an example. It’s a mess, and the only people that are safe, are those rich enough to afford gated communities and affluent neighborhoods. People are fleeing California and it’s cities in droves.

      • Nancy N. says:

        Yes actually I have been to California. I go to the LA area every year on business.

        And you can’t use the current state of California to refute my argument, since I was saying I liked something that California is PROPOSING doing, not is currently doing.

        • JustMytThoughts says:

          LOL, California can’t even control the Mexican border. How do you expect them to regulate ammo? They’ll just smuggle it in, like everything else. It’s ridicules you think California has the proposed answer for the rest of the country.

    • Anita says:

      Nancy, you always make sense. That’s one of the best ideas I’ve heard and I suggest you sent it to New York’s Mayor Bloomberg to incorporate into his campaign.

  3. Deep South says:

    All Principles, and Administrators should take gun training classes and be allowed to pack a firearm.

    • Geezer says:

      Why not arm the children too? I say we provide the kids with ballistic vests, (with Sponge Bob artwork)
      and Uzi machine pistols. Look Mommy!

  4. Alex says:

    How do “anti drug” laws working for us?

    Why would gun or ammo regulation law work better?

    Just curious.

  5. Local Parent says:

    There is “no legitimate” need for many things we are “allowed” to purchase as “free” American citizens. Here is what I propose.
    Ban cell phones- innocent people are killed everyday from texting and driving.
    Ban cigarettes- millions dying from lung cancer
    Ban alcohol- millions die from liver ailments, not to mention drunk driving.
    Ban Tylenol- #1 killer from fatal kidney\liver related failure
    Round up anyone with a “mental” issue because God forbid they could get ahold of any weapon. Unfortunately, some people think there is no legitimate reason for them either. Where does it end??

  6. ANONYMOUSAY says:

    So what about if someone in school faculty has a bad day and decides to go on a rampage. That idea of arming the gate keeper has just changed to instant victims because they are now trapped inside. Or if a couple of kids decide to over power the teacher to take their firearm? This can go in many bad directions. Peoples minds and hearts need to be made over the guns are already here, people are out of control.

    • JustMytThoughts says:

      I think Flagler has the right Idea. We have armed police in most of our schools. Most of these guys are X military. Maybe the answer for the rest of the country is having an armed police officer in each school. I understand peoples reasoning for not arming teachers, and administrators, but having a trained deputy is probably the best solution.

  7. johnny taxpayer says:

    Yeah, you’re always reading about those armed cops having a bad day and going on a rampage. Same with those armed Brinks drivers, or those armed $8 an hour security guards, or those armed shooting range employees, all you hear is rampage after rampage.

  8. ANONYMOUSAY says:

    @ Johnny taxpayer. First time for everything. Your false sense security because of gun ownership gives the impression you have been inhaling too much gun powder. Since you have it all figured out I guess 26 people killed was a fluke children non the less. Police and trained soldiers die everyday. But you to think arming Miss Applebee will solve everything. No gun can fix what this world now has to face.

  9. JL says:

    Making our schools safer will take more than just one act, or decision, or one law. It takes many things to happen to create a murderer. We need many things to exist to help make all of us safer.
    First, we need to go back to instilling values, morals, and discipline in raising children. We need to teach them right from wrong and that “wrong” has consequences.
    Second, we need many more prisons. When people are convicted of crimes, they need to do the time. ALL of it. And if you commit a crime with an illegal weapon, you should automatically get life in prison, no parole.
    Third, we need to institute the ban on assault guns. No ONE needs them except military and police.
    Fourth, make it much harder to buy guns AND ammunition.

    This is just a start, but we need to start somewhere.

  10. Ben Blakely says:

    Anything the NRA would say would be attacked by the insanely hateful and opportunity driven liberal left

    The left has an agenda to remove all power and self responsibility from the public. Big all controlling government and small, very small citizens are the goal of all hypocritical liberals.

  11. web says:

    I dont want to see more dead bodies because some maniacs have easy way to
    get gun.

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