Cerabino: Challenge Florida gun law? Go ahead, make their day


By Frank Cerabino

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer


Updated: 8:57 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Posted: 8:20 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cue the Mission Impossible theme.

Florida Sen. Chris Brown is trying to shame his fellow legislators in
re-evaluating the damage they’ve done by being the NRA’s handmaidens.

Brown, a Democrat from Fort Lauderdale, has assembled a panel to shine some
light on the state’s “stand your ground” law that has gotten lots
of attention since the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old who
had committed the crime of walking-while-black in a gated community in
Sanford.

Martin’s killer was George Zimmerman, a community-watch Barney Fife, who
despite a history of violence against both the police and his wife, was one
of the approximately 900,000 Floridians deemed worthy to meander America’s
fourth most populous state with a concealed weapon.

Sanford authorities have, so far, showed uncommon deference to Zimmerman’s
claim that he’s protected from prosecution by the 2005 state law that allows
Floridians to kill people when they are confronted in situations that may
cause them “great bodily harm.”

And while a grand jury is scheduled to be convened to sort that out, Brown
thinks it’s time to reassess the law that has created a spike in justifiable
homicides across the state.

He must be crazy. Brown’s been in the state legislature long enough to realize
that the last thing Florida lawmakers would do is disrespect the gun lobby.

Nine days after Martin was shot and killed, the Florida House gave its
departing leader, state Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, a shotgun as a gift
of appreciation. Cannon displayed the gun over his head on the floor of the
House, holding it aloft like a holy talisman.

“It was like that scene from The Lion King,” said Rep. Mark Pafford,
D-West Palm Beach. “My immediate reaction was to duck. I’m from Miami.
Somebody was shot right in front of me in high school.”

Speaking of gifts, the legislature, in its constant quest to find new ways to
demonstrate its gun love, has turned Florida into a laboratory of permissive
weapons laws. In recent years, that has included a take-your-gun to work
law, a gag order prohibiting doctors from asking their patients whether they
have guns, and a law that allows non-residents to obtain mail-order gun
licenses.

This year, while scrambling to find new money to plug budget holes,
legislators somehow found a way to reduce fees for concealed weapons permits.

Florida’s got gun fever. So much so that if any city or county government in
the state decides to go rogue and pass a local ordinance that’s tougher than
the state’s gun laws, the state can fine the local government $100,000 and
its elected leaders face personal fines of $5,000 and removal from office by
the governor.

Need more proof of the supremacy of the gun lobby in Florida?

During this summer’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, a security
perimeter will be established around the convention site.

In that security zone outside the meeting hall, drafted regulations call for a
list of prohibited items to include squirt guns, glass containers, light
bulbs, bicycle locks, anything that might function as a club, and pieces of
string longer than six inches.

All of those items are banned because they might be used as a weapon to hurt
other people.

But you can carry a concealed handgun inside the security zone if you have a
permit.

So to recap: It would be too dangerous to allow somebody to have 7 inches of
string in his pocket outside the convention hall, but a loaded handgun is OK.

That’s how far we’ve sunk in Florida.

Did I mention that the co-sponsor of the stand your ground gun law, state Rep.
Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, is an undertaker? You’d think that would be
considered a conflict of interest.

So good luck, Sen. Brown. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is –
pardon the pun – a long shot.

Fade the Mission Impossible theme.