Proponents of the idea that Floridians should be allowed to carry firearms everywhere they go are back in charge in the next legislative session in Tallahassee, which begins in March.
So let’s brace ourselves for the possible fusillade, of legislation at least.
As was the case last year, leading the charge is “open carry” champion Senate Judiciary Chair Greg Steube, a Republican from Sarasota, who is filing Senate Bill 610, legislation that would allow businesses to be sued if they prohibit people with permits from bringing guns into their establishments and the unthinkable happens.
Steube’s bill contemplates this scenario: Say a public place, like a bar, movie theater or a shopping mall, where it is forbidden to enter with weapons, is stormed by a mass shooter who opens fire on patrons.
And let’s say some of the patrons had concealed weapons permits but were not allowed to bring their guns into the establishment. Steube says the business would have a legal liability and could be sued for depriving authorized carriers of guns of their ability to defend themselves.
“If a private business wants to ban guns, it’s OK to do so,” Steube explains. “But if you’re going to do it, in my opinion, I must assume that I’m going to be protected because they’re taking away the possibility of me defending myself.” According to Steube, his measure would force business owners who ban weapons inside their establishment to guarantee the safety of patrons while patrons are inside their business.
Make sense? Only to Steube and the NRA and their true believers.
Steube doesn’t want to stop at bars, malls and theaters; he also wants to allow concealed weapons at airports, universities and courtrooms and even legislative meetings.
If Steube’s measure passes in Florida — where there are 1.6 million people with a permit to carry concealed weapons — the state’s image could be more like the Old West than the friendly, appealing image of tourism postcards.
But Steube’s logic sits on quicksand, bucking the opinion of gun-safety advocates. According to some recent studies, the cases in which armed civilians have stopped a mass shooting are no more than 1.6 percent in the past 30 years. Let’s be clear: Such a measure wouldn’t solve our gun violence problem.
Police experts fear the intervention in a shootout of well-meaning, but untrained civilians would go horribly awry. First, such intervention can cause more innocent victims. And when police arrive, they’re going to have trouble figuring out who’s a good guy in the blaze of gunfire —especially in dark places. It is very likely that the armed citizens could end up firing at each other.
The prospect of going to the movies and being surrounded by people who may have a loaded pistol at hand is not very reassuring. Yes, a business has an obligation to protect customers, that goes without saying. But what better way to start than to prohibit customers from bringing a gun into the store, bar or movie theater?
Steube’s proposal is based on an idea of self-defense that is not endorsed by law enforcement or reality.
Talk about American carnage! The smarter approach is not to arm as many people as possible, but tighter regulations on acquiring guns so that there’s less of a chance that they will fall into the wrong hands.