How do you take an unstable situation, be it a Hurricane Sandy-ish storm making shore, an accident causing mass casualties or a riot, and make it even more fun (read: awful) for those unlucky enough to be caught in it? Why add in the carte blanche right of amateurs to carry assault weapons and pistols with high-capacity magazines, and that ought to do it. Of course an idea this ridiculous could only happen in one place: Florida.
Florida is what you might call a special place. There’s a reason why when you type “Why is Florida…” into the Google Machine, among the first options that pop up are “crazy” and “so crazy.”
Once a century, it turns our presidential elections into The Gangs of New York, an astronaut has been known to put on an adult diaper for a scenic 950-mile drive along the Gulf Coast to threaten a romantic competitor, and the state knowingly elected as governor a Medicaid mass fraudster who's balder than Mr. Bigglesworth, even though the voters knew all of this ahead of time.
But gun insanity, my friends, this is where Florida really and truly excels. Whether it’s their pioneering effort in passing racist Stand Your Ground laws (Thanks to former Gov. Jeb Bush—The Smart One!—and pint-sized troll-cum-gun lobbyist Marion Hammer) or applying them to non-whites possessing the audacity to get their groove on while gassing or munching too loud on rainbow candy treats.
Their can-do spirit comes in the form of the disgruntled marching into a school-board meeting in Panama City and firing on the assembled members in an attempt to get his wife’s job back. Shooting a man for texting his babysitter from a movie theater. And returning a Glock pistol and assault rifle to a gentleman named Wayne Rogers, after he shot his “drinking buddy.” And killed him. Did I mention Rogers is blind?
For these reasons and many other infamous ones, you could call Florida the Grand Ole Opry of gun nuttery. So sure, you might think the reaction to these high-profile case studies in the inanity of the Sunshine State’s gun laws might lead to a few common-sense restrictions, to at least somewhat call a halt to The Crazy. Yet, Florida—like its brethren also currently controlled by extremist, Tea Party lunatics—is going in completely the opposite direction.
Presently, the gun monster’s reared its ugly head in the form of an NRA-backed bill in the statehouse—HB 209—that seeks to allow anyone lacking a concealed carry permit to go ahead and ignore that whole permit thing during “riots” and other emergencies.
Now imagine Hurricane Katrina or New York during the 9/11 attacks, but with every scared-out-of-their-wits Homo sapien carrying a piece and wanting you to say hello to their little friend? And what if World War Z should find Florida? OK, if The Zombie Apocalypse greets us, I’ll accept Wayne LaPierre’s call for all guns on deck. Otherwise? Sheer lunacy.
And just what constitutes an emergency that would put this law into effect? Nobody knows, least of all the sponsor of the bill , State Rep. Heather Fitzhagen (R-Fort Myers). She was unable to provide any actual specifics about the law’s potential application when queried about her own legislation.
Those with actual experience dealing with criminals, such as Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, respond like this: “To allow people to go into a riot while concealing a gun without a permit is the definition of insanity… The bill is crazy. It’s absurd.”
Meanwhile, Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president and foaming mouthpiece, has clearly once again been watching The Purge late at night while huddling under his bed, clad in his Hulk Hogan jammies and his very own astronaut-ish adult diaper.
Because this bill his front-group-for-profiteering-arms-dealers is pushing is similar to Stand Your Ground and concealed carry in church/daycare center/bar bills, in that it’s a solution that’s not only searching for a problem, but much more likely to create one that’s currently nonexistent. The result is that those with actual experience dealing with criminals, such as Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, respond like this: “To allow people to go into a riot while concealing a gun without a permit is the definition of insanity… The bill is crazy. It’s absurd.”
The Florida Sheriffs Association, to which Gualtieri belongs, similarly is concerned this bill lacks specifics, which will likely lead to “false arrests” and “more clashes with police.” Of course, most of the legislation the NRA leadership (not to be confused with members, who profoundly disagree with the dishonest and out-of-touch leadership on, well, almost everything) puts forth these days automatically places the lives of law enforcement, as well as the rest of us, in more danger.
The longer term NRA project is to make firearms in public a norm, so Americans continue to forget our history and the gun fondlers might reverse the steady decline in household ownership. This history includes the inconvenient truth that concealed carry was outright banned in many states you’d never guess for much of the 19th century, including Wyoming, Kentucky, Louisiana, Texas, and yes, Florida.
Back then, towns like Tombstone, which I had the pleasure of recently visiting, made you check your guns at the edge of town—as murder was deemed bad for business, for some reason. One need only return to the 1970s to find a past where only a handful of states allowed concealed carry at all.
Because, as we understood for most of our history in this country and Texas’ governor explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”
Let’s hope Florida legislators are reminded of this before they send even more armed, permit-lacking, would-be Rambos and Zimmermans into situations where “emergency” is in the eye of the beholder, as is the threat that must be eliminated.