In his widely discredited 2000 book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, author Michael Bellesiles argued the national obsession with firearms is a relatively recent phenomenon – that prior to the Civil War, gun ownership was largely the province of rural folk who hunted for sustenance and the well-heeled who hunted for sport. Not long after the book’s release an alliance between legitimate scholars and National Rifle Association executives uncovered major flaws in Bellesiles’ premise and proof. By the time they were done laying siege to “Arming America” it had become the new poster child for failed progressive efforts to curb gun proliferation.
Fast forward 14 years and NRA execs no longer rely on liberal missteps to make their case: Scores of indentured politicians do it for them. If you doubt this just start ticking off the number of gun-related stories coming out of Florida. Since going down the path to gun idiocy otherwise known as Stand Your Ground laws, the Gunshine state now rivals Alaska and Arizona (the darlings of pretty much every pro-gun bloggers’ top ten) for NRA cow towing.
Florida’s purple-state status has shrouded the uptick in NRA loyalty as measured in Project Vote Smart scores – the NRA’s 0-100 scale for rating legislators’ voting records on gun-related bills. Republicans have for the past four years occupied both chambers and the governorship – a trifecta that most always yields always greater NRA influence – over which time GOP Vote Smart scores have mirrored numbers of gun-related bills introduced. But Floridians don’t need NRA congressional beauty contests to recognize the degree to which their state government has been compromised. They’re living it.
In April alone three gun related bills have been introduced; one allowing firearms on college campus; one granting prosecutorial immunity to anyone with a clean record who fires a warning shot before using lethal force; and most recently the appropriately christened Zombie Apocalypse Gun Law.
In case it slipped by, the Zombie law is NRA-influenced Tallahassee at its absolute worst – a shoddy piece of legislation allowing even non-registered gun owners to carry weapons in the event of riots, floods, hurricanes and other emergencies. House Bill 209 is wending its way to an up/down vote; but not without resistance from county and local law enforcement officers. They rightly point to the bill’s vagaries: For how long does the law apply? At what distance from the actual event does it no longer apply?
Asked about the prospect of untrained, armed civilians under stress and in tight quarters, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gaultieri responded, “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.”
If Gaultieri and other voices of reason go unheeded, and HB 209 is added to the growing legal rationalizations for Florida’s firearm fetish, there’ll be plenty of blame to go around – starting with the segment of the citizenry that puts NRA lackeys in office.
But as Florida author and columnist Carl Hiaasen observed in a recent Tampa Bay Times op-ed, there is no such thing as an NRA-free discussion of guns in his home state. That goes double for the Republican co-conspirators who are putting the entire population at unnecessary risk.
Don Rollins is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Tarpon Springs, Fla. Email email@example.com.
From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2014
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