No need to water down Florida gun laws

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on July 6, 2022.

OUR POSITION: Gov. Ron DeSantis is going in the wrong direction when it comes to gun violence.

Mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York are still stinging, yet Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis can’t wait to arm more Floridians.

It just doesn’t make good sense. Unless, of course, you’re running for governor with an eye on the White House in 2024 and you want to solidify your base. That’s the only reason we can imagine DeSantis wants to put more guns on our streets — and not require those carrying them to even know how to shoot a gun.

After the Supreme Court ruled our Constitution allows a person to carry a gun outside their home, Republican office holders are champing at the bit to loosen state laws. The 6-3 ruling, with the court’s conservative members leading the way, overruled a New York law that required showing a special need to get a permit to carry a handgun in public.

Buoyed by the Supreme Court’s guidance, DeSantis pledged his support for a change in state law that would allow residents to carry concealed guns without needing permits. He said the Florida Legislature will get it done — perhaps even in a special session later this year.

“I can’t tell you if it’s going to be next week, six months, but I can tell you before I am done as governor, we will have a signature on that bill,” he said last week.

We find it incomprehensible that any governor or lawmaker in Florida would be in favor of making it easier to carry a concealed firearm. If the governor has his way, it would likely mean anyone can go into a gun store and buy a gun without any training at all or showing competence with it.

Maybe the governor has a short memory.

Has he forgotten that 49 people were killed in June, 2016 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando by a gunman who targeted gays?

Does he not remember how a lone gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day, 2018 and murdered 17 students and staff?

Is Florida really the state where you want to run for election by bragging you’ve used the Second Amendment to make it easier for anyone to have a gun — a concealed gun at that?

DeSantis — who seems to balance rational thinking and good deeds with irrational thinking and bad laws — is intoxicated with power. He knows that right now he has the popularity and a huge majority in the Legislature to do just about anything he wants. Florida Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson has already said he would vote to pass such a gun bill.

Even if the bill passes, unless changes are made, there are a number of places people will not be able to carry a concealed weapon. Examples would include: any police, sheriff or highway patrol station, detention facility, prison or jail; courthouses; polling places; government meeting place or schools; a passenger terminal or area of an airport.

We don’t understand why DeSantis has to continue to cater to a faction of voters that he has already won over. A looser gun bill will not win him more votes. It will, however, enhance his image with the ultra-right wing of the Republican party, which he surely wants on his side in a potential 2024 run at the presidency. Let’s not pretend that is not what the embracing of more liberal gun laws is all about.

The governor doesn’t have to go this route. We implore him to reconsider pushing for a law that will put lethal weapons on the hands of people who may have never shot a gun and have no training to do so.

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