Florida’s Democrats have time and again demonstrated their weakness for the personal “charms” of Marion P. Hammer and the gun lobby. While support for sensible gun control measures remains consistent among Florida’s Democratic and Independent voters, Florida’s Democratic elected officials have become wobblier and wobblier on the issue. As ALEC pushes experimental gun laws through Florida as models for the rest of the country, many if not most Democrats in the legislature have been complicit.
The latest effort will be a reprise of the 2011 campaign to add Florida to the list of states with “Open Carry” laws. This would allow gun owners to display openly their firearm. The legislature when in safer hands during the 1980s banned “Open Carry” in Florida with exceptions made for hunting and fishing trips. In 2011 the Legislature reached a “compromise” that allowed brief display of a firearm in open but stopped far short of what gun proponents were seeking.
The NRA and its allies are targeting law enforcement with this Open Carry law claiming our state’s dedicated local police and sheriff’s deputies discriminate against gun owners. They also point to history and statistics, noting that criminals usually conceal their weapons. But even for some Democrats who unwisely supported the “Castle Doctrine” ie. Stand Your Ground” in 2005 continued passing of NRA backed gun laws is unwise at best. It is time to stand up for the citizens of Florida.
It bears repeating what I wrote last month about Florida’s electorate when the discussion of the “Docs and Glocks” bill was in the news.
Under Marion P. Hammer, the NRA consistently spun that Florida citizens were against all forms of reasonable gun control. But in elections where gun control was a central issue refuted this claim. In 1994 Jeb Bush embraced the NRA mantra accusing Lawton Chiles of being soft on crime. Bush lost. In 1996, Bill Clinton touted his strong record on gun control and he crushed GOP nominee Bob Dole who was closely allied with the NRA. In 2000, Bill Nelson defeated Bill McCollum, one of the NRA’s most celebrated champions in Congress for the US Senate. Also that year Al Gore ran the most pro-gun control campaign in the history of the United States Presidential Elections: Gore was denied Florida’s electoral votes by court intervention and other political games but he almost without question was the choice of the majority of Floridians who turned out on November 7, 2000. While Gore’s strong stand in favor of gun control likely cost him New Hampshire, West Virginia and his home state of Tennessee (all of which had voted Democratic in 1992 & 1996) it probably won him Florida.
Chiles, Clinton, Nelson and Gore all won the majority of urbanized I-4 corridor counties, yet legislators representing those counties often times sat at the forefront of any NRA led effort to weaken Florida’s gun laws. Republican legislators, aided by weak-willed Democratic allies, literally proved they could not read policy papers, studies about crime rates, poll numbers or election results. The only sources of information that mattered to them were the GOP platform and NRA legislative bulletins.
Simply put Florida’s voters are looking for Democrats to take a strong stand on gun control. This is another opportunity for our leaders to stand up and be counted. Let us hope they do so.