In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Florida lawmakers’ kissing up to gun industry is real scandal

I propose a new nickname for Florida: State of the Absurd.

It’s not an original thought, so please, hold the applause.

The idea comes from a Miami Herald headline summarizing the state of sports, in light of Lance Armstrong’s confession that he doped to enhance his bike-racing performance and Manti Te’o’s fake dying girlfriend.

“...Land of the absurd,” the bold headline said.

“You CAN’T make this stuff up,” boasted another, stripped tabloid-style across a photo of Armstrong at the finish line.

Next to this display was an investigative story by Tallahassee bureau reporter Toluse Olorunnipa.

The one-column headline: “Gun makers feast on Fla. tax breaks.”

Tell me, what is more absurd?

That a sports figure lies or is duped? Or that a state that has slashed mental healthcare and school safety gives tax breaks and other economic incentives for the manufacture and sale of guns, including high-powered assault weapons?

The state subsidies ($1.6 million in a tax deal to one company alone) also extend to industries that make violent video games and violent television shows and movies — in all, $10 million in economic incentives.

This corporate welfare was doled out by a largely Republican Legislature and a Republican governor.

Aren’t they supposed to be the party against entitlement funding?

The state justifies the subsidies by saying these industries create jobs, but the government’s all-out endorsement and legislative record points to more than job-creation motives.

In recent years, the Legislature has expanded gun laws that make it easier to buy, transport, and even justify the use of firearms in questionable cases, as studies of the “Stand Your Ground Law” have shown.

While all sorts of other state fees have increased, the Florida Legislature cut the cost of getting a weapons license by $5 – maybe not a big deal money-wise, but in as tough a budget year as 2012 was, it says a great deal about our lawmakers’ priorities and values.

Look no further than their boast that Florida has more than one million people who have concealed weapons licenses.

Nationally, the state ranks first in gun ownership and 49th in mental health funding.

Even more absurdly, lawmakers didn’t seem moved by the multitude of disparities outlined in Olorunnipa’s story.

When the topic of incentives for guns came up in a committee hearing Thursday, Republican Sen. Aaron Bean, who represents Duval and Nassau counties, chimed in: “We would love to manufacture guns in Northeast Florida!”

Bean had a challenger in the November election who was more qualified and tuned in to the real problems of the nation. But voters overwhelmingly elected Bean, who’s more interested in the concerns of a special interest, the gun industry.

Welcome to Florida, where we’ll soon trade “In God We Trust” for “In Guns We Trust” and, instead of an orange, we’ll accessorize our license plates with a cartoonish smoking gun sporting a smirk.

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