Almost two weeks after the horrific school shooting in Connecticut, the Florida Legislature long the laboratory for ALEC and NRA backed gun measures seems poised to indulge the wishes of the gun lobby yet again. As we’ve pointed out several times in the past gun control is not as unpopular among the statewide electorate as the GOP and many Democrats would claim it is. Yet the Florida Legislature has passed gun law after gun law largely with bi-partisan support, even less well publicized ones like those that conceal who owns a gun and the “Docs vs. Glocks” bill that only became higher profile after the state said it would appeal a court ruling.
Dennis Baxley’s reaction to the school shooting has been widely mocked and was predictable. But you have to give Baxley credit for courage. Florida’s Democrats would do well to learn from his example. I have often remarked that if Democratic legislators showed the type of assertiveness about their views that Baxley, former Rep. Don Brown and former Rep. Rob Wallace showed, we wouldn’t be in this helpless minority position in state government.
As we pointed out last week, many Democrats have been complicit in supporting the gun legislation pushed through the legislature by ALEC and Marion P. Hammer, the NRA’s chief figure in this state. To this point we’ve seen very little action out of Florida’s Democrats to push new control restrictions in the state.
The silence is deafening. Many Florida Democrats would rather not run afoul of the GOP leadership or powerful non-elected figures like Hammer than stand strong on one of the hot button issues of the day. This shameful abdication of leadership just continues a long pattern of submission to Republican domination in the state that began during the 1999 legislative session.
With few exceptions (and we acknowledge their have been a few particularly when former Rep. Dan Gelber or Senator Nan Rich were controlling the party’s legislative messaging) the Democrats have been unwilling to forcefully give Florida voters the choices they deserve on issues. Our two-party system depends on a vigorous debate on the issues. Without it Democracy is derailed. The Soviet politburo would be proud of the type of control the Republicans have established over the state legislature. But they’ve had help from the state’s Democrats.