PARKLAND, Fla. — Smut, not guns, is the great risk to teenagers.
So say Florida lawmakers, who — days after one of the deadliest school massacres in history occurred on their doorstep, as the child survivors of that massacre watched from the gallery — refused to consider a bill banning assault-style rifles. About an hour later, those same legislators passed a resolution declaring that pornography endangers teenage health. Say what you will about porn, but to my knowledge , it has not been used to slaughter teens.
This was disappointing but not altogether surprising. The Gunshine State has long preferred the Second Amendment to the First.
More broadly, for years now, my beloved home state has placed the interests of the National Rifle Association above the interests of Floridians.
Florida’s most notorious legal innovation is, of course, Stand Your Ground, the 2005 NRA-backed gun law that said a person who feels threatened has no duty to retreat before engaging in deadly force, even outside the home. The law likely contributed to the exoneration of the man who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and has been linked to an increase in homicides.
But Stand Your Ground is hardly the only case of extreme Floridian deference to the gun lobby.
There was also Docs vs. Glocks, a 2011 NRA-supported law that restricted doctors’ rights to ask patients whether they have a gun and to talk to them about firearm safety. A federal court struck down the law last year on First Amendment grounds.
Before that, the state legislature granted shooting ranges widespread immunity from environmental laws. Why? The NRA complained that environmental agencies wanted to make gun ranges pay for the decades’ worth of bullet lead leaching into water supplies.
Then there are all the other crazy behaviors that the state encourages of residents.
Floridians can set up shooting ranges in their back yards, for example, with no restrictions on what kinds of weapons or time of day they can shoot. Again, the consequences were predictable. Two years ago, a 14-year-old girl in Collier County was standing inside her home when she was struck in the hand by a stray bullet from her neighbor’s target practice.
When Floridians complain to local officials about these kinds of behaviors, mayors and commissioners say that their hands are tied.
That’s because yet another state law bars municipalities from enacting virtually any regulation related to firearms.
It’s all a bit rich, given state legislators’ supposed dedication to home rule. And this preemption law also goes a lot further than the usual state laws restricting localities from regulating things such as the minimum wage or ride-sharing.
In this case, if municipal officials pass a firearms-related law, they must pay a $5,000 fine and lose their jobs. They can also be forced to pay up to $100,000 in damages by any “person or an organization whose membership is adversely affected by any ordinance” — such as, say, the NRA.
Beam Furr, the Broward County mayor, told me he’d love to consider county-level gun-control measures such as a gun registry, a ban on assault-style weapons, or even just a requirement that more information from school and mental-health records get added to background checks. But if he pursued these options, he said, “by law, I’d lose my job.”
Another mayor, Frank Ortis of Pembroke Pines, told me he wonders whether a different approach might be better: maybe pass a new gun-control ordinance, and see what happens.
“Come and get me,” he said.
These are not idle arguments. Not to parents and students here in Parkland, about an hour from where I grew up.
Certainly not to Annabel Claprood, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sophomore. Last week the gunman tapped on her Spanish class’s door, before apparently concluding that the room was empty and shooting up the next classroom instead.
She thought she was coping okay. Then, a few days later, she accidentally locked her boss out of the restaurant where she works. When he shook the door, she hit the floor and curled into the fetal position.
Claprood lives with her mother and grandmother, who had pooled their resources to buy a house in this affluent school district and get her out of a dodgy neighborhood in North Lauderdale.
“We moved here so she could be safer,” said her grandmother, Doris Goldberg. “Now look what happened.”
The hard truth may be this: Maybe nowhere in Florida is truly safe, so long as the NRA is calling the shots.
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