Its only fitting that the NRAs biggest tool in Florida is a funeral director.
He is Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican who does whatever the gun lobby wants.
Three days after the slaughter of first-graders in Newtown, Conn., Baxley made national headlines by suggesting that weapons should be carried by employees at public schools.
Said he: In our zealousness to protect people from harm weve created all these gun-free zones, and what weve inadvertently done is weve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.
So thats the problem. Its not crackpots with Bushmasters, its those darn gun-free zones.
And since a brain-free zone usually encircles Floridas Legislature, count on some eager-beaver lawmaker to follow up on Baxleys idea of arming teachers, coaches, maybe even cafeteria workers.
You might be wondering what kind of a person would advocate saturating our schools with loaded firearms. How about a grandfather of eight who lists his hobbies as fishing, reading and listening to Gospel music?
Rock on, Dennis. Nearer my Glock to thee!
Although Baxley has been on the boards of child-protection groups in Marion County, the massacre of those innocent children in Connecticut failed to shake his faith in a guns-for-all philosophy.
Hes been a long-time darling of the NRA. In 2004 the group gave him an A-plus rating and a Defender of Freedom award, and four years later it pumped $35,000 into his election campaign, according to Mother Jones magazine.
In return, Baxley has been obedient and loyal as a puppy. Hes responsible for Floridas half-baked Stand Your Ground law, now a go-to legal defense for any dope dealer or gang banger who shoots down a rival on the street.
The law has been so problematic for prosecutors that Gov. Rick Scott last year formed a task force to review it. Baxley, of course, was given a prime seat.
As head of the House Judiciary committee, hes in position to snuff proposed changes to the Stand Your Ground statute. Similarly, any sane legislation that might limit access to weapons and mass ammo clips of the sort used at Sandy Hook Elementary would have to get Baxleys approval, which will never happen.
Hes way too tight with Marion Hammer, Floridas top gun lobbyist and a cloud-mate of that jibbering NRA wingnut, Wayne LaPierre. Both Hammer and LaPierre trade on the myth that they speak for Americas gun owners, when they dont even speak for the groups membership.
A conservative pollster reported that more than 70 percent of NRA members surveyed support certain reforms that are rabidly opposed by the leadership requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers, for example, and banning firearm ownership by anyone on the FBIs terrorist watch list.
Another fact that the NRA doesnt brag about: Its funding increasingly depends on gun manufacturers, not gun owners. According to the Violence Policy Center, 22 firearms manufacturers, including Beretta USA and Smith & Wesson, gave almost $39 million to the NRA between 2005 and 2011.
So its basically a corporate shill promoting itself as a grass-roots defender of the Constitution.
In many states the NRA has used campaign contributions and threats of retribution to secure political puppets such as Baxley. The successful tactic has given the lobby a clout that far outweighs the true size of its constituency.
The NRA claims 4.3 million members. If you charitably assume its not padding the numbers, the total still represents just a tiny fraction of American gun owners, of whom there are at least 146 million.
In other words, more than 97 percent of legal gun owners in this country hunters, target shooters, people who keep or carry a firearm for protection dont belong to the NRA.
Many gun owners have multiple weapons (I own two, a shotgun and a rifle), but the vast majority dont keep assault rifles or military-style semi-automatics of the type used on the moviegoers in Aurora, Colo., the children in Newtown or, more recently, four firefighters and an off-duty policeman in Webster, New York.
The latest wave of attacks has shaken up a few pro-NRA stalwarts like Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, who said: I dont know anybody in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle. I dont know anybody who needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting.
Tragically, nothing so sensible is being heard from lawmakers such as Baxley, though he undoubtedly has embalmed enough young gunshot victims to realize that something needs to change.