It was a Monday fraught with terrible possibilities. None seemed to register with the NRA-controlled legislature.
Senate President Don Gaetz, who controls the senate agenda, said last week he would leave all the questions about gun legislation to the discretion of the chairman of the senate Criminal Justice Committee, Sen. Greg Evers of the Panhandle town of Baker. Which is about like leaving the question of whether to ban chocolate ice cream up to your 5-year-old.
In 2009, the NRA bought space on 32 billboards in northwest Florida featuring a giant photo of Evers in a camouflage outfit, clutching a gun, with the proclamation, “I am the NRA.”
The Herald’s Toluse Olorunnipa dutifully asked Evers last week if he would countenance any sort of gun measure during this legislative session, though everyone in Tallahassee knew what Evers would say before he said it. Especially Gaetz (who once joked that his idea of gun control was “a steady aim.”). Evers said, “I don’t see any controversial bills that we need to bring up or any bills dealing with guns that need to be moved.”
Everything’s just dandy, here in gun-crazed Florida. According to Olorunnipa, a proposed repeal of the so-called “docs versus Glocks” law has no chance. The 2011 legislation outlawed the right of doctors to ask patients or patients’ parents about firearms in the homes. Doesn’t matter if the physician’s confronted with a suicidal teenager. Or an utterly unhinged patient. No chance for that bill. Not in this legislature.
A bill to restrict gun show sales to licensed dealers was also deemed good as dead, along with another piece of legislation that would modify the NRA-backed Stand Your Ground self-defense law, despite all the well-documented unintended consequences.
A gun bill that would require universal background checks for gun purchases can’t get out of committee. This, despite a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday that found 91 percent of Floridians supported the concept. But 91 percent support is not enough, in our Democracy, to thwart the will of the NRA.
(The NRA has indicated it might support a bill that would bar firearm purchases to mental patients who voluntarily commit themselves, closing the loophole in the state law that bans sales to the involuntarily committed. This coincides with the NRA national strategy to defuse anti-gun sentiment over the Newtown massacre by restricting firearm sales to the mentally ill.)
A couple of other legislative proposals would tax firearms sales and direct the proceeds to fund either mental health or school safety programs — an almost laughable concept in Florida. Guns and taxes in the same paragraph? Never.
Olorunnipa counted two dozen gun proposals languishing in the legislature. And two dozen nevers. Rhymes with Evers.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the NRA has similarly beaten back proposals to ban assault weapons and limit magazine capacity. The organization also opposes a federal background check, claiming such a thing would lead to a secret national registry and confiscation.
National polls indicate 88 percent of the American public supports background checks. But the NRA trumps the national will. Despite the brutal carnage of school children in Newtown. Or the (according to the Huffington Post) 2,243 gunshot deaths since the Newtown murders.
If awful scenes of so many dead elementary school children has so little effect on national gun legislation, you can imagine how much attention an almost gun massacre at UCF is getting in the Florida legislation.