Boredom, maybe. What else explains the confounding flurry of gun bills bobbing up in the Florida Legislature?
It’s almost as if the National Rifle Association, having dismantled even the most tepid gun-control measures and won all the big battles in the courts and legislatures, now tosses out ever more outlandish proposals just for the hell of it.
No legislator has been able to quite explain just why Florida needs a gun law (a felony with a $5 million fine) to gag physicians, even psychiatrists treating suicidal teenagers, from inquiring about firearms in the home. It’s not as if lawmakers suspected Florida doctors were compiling a secret gun registry (to feed UN invaders in black helicopters swooping down to seize Uncle Elbert’s deer rifle). No. The NRA, bored, wants to measure the far parameters of its unassailable political power.
Another inexplicable gun bill percolating through the 2011 legislative session (and endorsed by Gov. Rick Scott) would allow Florida gun slingers to tote firearms openly, in holsters. One might wonder why a state beholden to tourists, many from nations where vigilante justice is not a celebrated ideal, would want such infamy splashed across newspapers in London or Paris or Madrid or Berlin.
The same bill, poking a sharp stick into the eye of those outside the gun culture, would also legalize guns on college campuses. The legislation does include a special gun toting exception. No one can carry a gun “into any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof.”
So gun slingers can take Glocks to their chemistry final, or to campus frat parties, but the architects of the legislation want to make damn sure lawmakers are safely insulated from their cowboy constituents.
In New Hampshire, at least, lawmakers were less hypocritical. Last month, the New Hampshire House of Representatives repealed a 40-year-old ban against bringing guns into the statehouse.
No doubt the NRA, running out of issues, will add that to its Florida legislative agenda. The state, at behest of the gun lobby, has ready enacted laws encouraging gun owners to take their firearms to work and the park. The NRA pushed (over the objection of police and prosecutors) the Stand Your Ground law, an expansion of the self-defense doctrine that has provided a novel legal defense for murderous gangbangers. Florida law also pretends that gun ranges shouldn’t be held liable for the environmental damage caused by lead ammunition. A pending bill would make it a felony for city or county commissioners to try to enact any gun control legislation beyond those enacted by the state Legislature. Which is next to none.
Other states have removed prohibitions on guns in bars. Arizona, Alaska and Vermont have done away with the bother of concealed-weapon permits. Nebraska has a bill pending that would allow public school teachers and administrators to gun up. Utah has a bill, considered a slam dunk, declaring the Browning M1911 pistol the state gun. (Florida, surely, will confer glory onto the locally favored MAC-10 machine pistol, complete with a sound suppressor.)
A South Dakota state rep has introduced a bill requiring gun ownership for all citizens over the age of 21. The legislation was contrived as satire, mocking the Obama health care bill. But most gun bills, lately, seem like satire.
In Florida gun satire has a strong chance of becoming state law. If only because the NRA, having won the war, needs a few battles to keeps contributors riled.
Or maybe it’s just plain boredom.