Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lesson from Parkland: Republicans Aren’t Doing Enough (Here’s What They Need to Do)

Another horrific gun massacre is dominating the headlines, this time out of Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were murdered at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus by a raging juvenile delinquent. This is the second gun massacre in Florida in the last two years. And of course, the politicization of another gun massacre has ensued. The Democrats in the US Senate like Chris Murphy of “gun registry” Connecticut are demanding more gun control: “We must get guns off our streets! We must stop this disease of gun violence! The Republicans are in bondage to the NRA! We need to stop their control of our legislative process!”

There is neither need nor further value in exposing the falsehoods of these old, tired arguments from the gun-control trigger-happy Left. In fact, one of the happier outcomes from this disaster is that President Trump and Congressional Republicans by and large are not calling for gun control per se. They are talking about better screenings for mental illness, which has its place, but this country effective solutions must curb gun violence like this school massacre.

President Trump and Florida Governor Rick Scott are targeting the FBI for failing to follow leads about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, , a menacing individual who was later expelled from the high school. Local law enforcement was called to his home a record 39 times. The FBI even received tips about him as recently as January of this year. A simple data search would have revealed multiple, justified reasons to worry. Governor Scott’s demand for FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign is not the right step, yet; but Attorney General Sessions has to drain the swamp-infested federal law enforcement community of partisan hacks. How about going after bad guys instead of our President?
It’s also worth noting that in spite of this tragedy, state legislatures are introducing more pro-gun bills introduced into select committees. Their determined resolve to respect the Second Amendment, a glowing testimony to the media’s diminished power and the enhanced courage of the voters and their representatives.

But still, what’s going on in Florida? What factors are precipitating these murders? Two massacres in two years is too much, one would think. I looked into the status on concealed carry in Florida. The state has a pretty straightforward process. One source indicates that Florida initiated in 1987 the first clearly-stated objective metrics for “shall issue”. A record number of Floridians have also obtained concealed-carry licenses.

I then reached out to pro-Second Amendment advocacy group “Florida Carry” on this matter. Executive Director Sean Caranna fired back quickly (pun intended): “Open carry and almost all permitless carry is a crime in Florida.  Even concealed licensees cannot enter schools or bars while armed.” What?! Did you see “schools and bars”--where the last two Florida gun massacres occurred. Permitless, aka constitutional carry, is expressly banned in Florida. I have never heard of such legislation.

Eric J. Friday, the general counsel for Florida Carry, released a damning open letter to the Florida State Legislature: “Laws punish wrongdoing; they do not stop wrongdoers. Yet Florida continues to prohibit licensed law-abiding citizens from possessing the tools to protect themselves and their children from mass murder.” This lawyer did not mince words: lawmakers do have blood on their hands, but not because they haven’t stopped the guns. Rather, because they have frustrated the Florida citizenry from full exercise of their God-given right to self-defense.

I would not go so far as to say that Florida’s elected officials have blood on their hands, but these gun massacres will only continue until they pass much-needed reforms:

1.       Concealed-carry (CC) permits should have no restrictions based on location. Imagine if a CC holder at the Pulse or on that high school campus had carried a firearm? Nikolas Cruz would have been neutralized on the spot.
2.       Some lawmakers want to incrementally increase the number of permitted CC holders, like teachers in their classrooms. Sure, but this option should be expanded to all law-abiding citizen.
3.       “Gun-free zones” by statute are a dangerous myth. It’s time to remove this naïve prohibition.
4.       How about going for constitutional carry? Maine and New Hampshire recently passed these reforms, and crime rates have plummeted. Florida should at least repeal the ban.

Congress has work to do, as well.

5.       H.R. 38, Congressman Hudson’s national reciprocity bill, passed on a bipartisan basis in the House last December. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to stop sitting on this bill. Red State Democrats would either have to vote for this bill, or give their constituents another reason to throw them out. Liberal US Senator Angus King of Maine has even defended the Second Amendment on national television, citing the lower crime rates in his home state. Add to that tally the 51 Republicans, and McConnell has the voted for cloture. Why not allowed for an open amendment process on H.R. 38, just like on immigration? Now’s the time to move forward.
6.       How about legislation authorizing nationwide constitutional carry? Critics will submit that this is stepping into states’ constitutional authority, but the Second Amendment is a federal right recognized through the Fourteenth Amendment. How about sanctuary jurisdictions for Second Amendment rights?

At this point, all the talk about mental health, enhanced background checks, or further restrictions on semi-automatic weapons is a waste of time. Republicans need to stop paying lip-service to the Second Amendment. Our leaders need to let citizens exercise this sacred right to the fullest.

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