Commentary: NRA always gets what it wants

The Miami HeraldAugust 31, 2011 

You might not have figured sleepy little Groveland, Fla., to be a hotbed of pointy-headed-liberal anti-gun predilections, with local laws restricting patriotic Americans’ God-given right to pack heat anywhere and anyhow they the damn well see fit.

The city, with about 7,000 residents, just kind of pops out of the citrus groves up in Lake County, fairly oozing with small-town conservative American values. But back in January 2010, the Groveland city council trampled all over the Second Amendment, passing a city ordinance that outlawed celebratory gunshots into the heavens. The council wanted to make city law compatible with the law of gravity. "What goes up, comes down," police Capt. Eddie McConnell told the council, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Capt. McConnell reminded the city fathers that a bullet shot into the heavens descends at 700 feet per second, with enough velocity to put a fair size hole in the skull of some hapless innocent caught outside without his Kevlar helmet.

Besides, McConnell added, Groveland’s supposed to be a bird sanctuary, a designation not so compatible with trigger happy gunmen letting loose with random bursts of flying lead. The new ordinance carried penalties of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Three weeks ago, Groveland rescinded the ordinance. No choice. Under Florida’s latest bizarre anything-the-NRA-wants-the-NRA-gets legislation, unless the city undid its firearms law, the town risked a $500,000 fine while each council member faced a $5,000 fine and removal from office.

The Florida legislators, who rail incessantly about the feds interfering in state business, or healthcare, have given us a law, effective Oct. 1, that prohibits local governments from enacting any firearm restrictions that exceed the state’s tepid laws. Along with legislation making criminals of doctors who inquire about firearms in the home.

State law already prohibits the mindless discharge of firearms. Groveland’s apparent sin was to get specific about firing into the heavens.

Cities and counties across the state (including Groveland) have been tossing out ordinances meant to keep concealed firearms out of parks and government buildings – laws based on the outlandish notion that maybe we don’t want gunmen lurking around playgrounds or the tax assessor’s officer.

Workers are running about removing “no firearms” signs from public places. Orange County decided it would be cheaper just to black out the forbidden words on park brochures. Lee County commissioners reluctantly are taking up an ordinance next month allowing firearms in the terminal at Southwest Florida International Airport.

Earlier this month, Miami Gardens, which has been beset with gun violence, refused to toss its no-guns-in-parks law. Councilman Oliver Gilbert said, "At some point people have to say something. We are going in the wrong direction. This makes no sense."

But in Florida a sensible local gun law, as the Leon County Attorney Herb Thiele warned his county commissioners, now comes with “the most all-encompassing set of penalties I’ve seen. It’s a political death penalty.”

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