Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) is a hypocrite. As the Florida Democrat caucus leader, she has campaigned on a platform of equality. But in reality, she’s not a fan of protecting the rights of Floridians, and her actions in the legislature show it.
She states she’s for the passage of something she calls “comprehensive and sensible gun reform to protect Floridians.” But gun control in no way protects Floridians. In fact, it does the exact opposite.
The numbers don’t lie. We can look at the most crime-ridden cities in the country, and virtually all have something in common: gun control laws.
As a fifteen-year veteran law enforcement officer, I know what stops crime. Armed Floridians do. But gun control does nothing to stop criminals. In fact, all it does is make victims of honest people.
Two examples: the Pulse Nightclub and Parkland High School shootings. Under state law, both are designated gun-free zones.
- 790.06(12)(a)(10) “Any elementary or secondary school facility or administration building.”
- 790.06(12)(a)(12) “Any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, which portion of the establishment is primarily devoted to such purpose.”
Honest Floridians in both locations were disarmed. And they became the victims of violent criminals because of gun control. Murder has been against the law since Moses descended from Mount Sinai. It’s still illegal. But for some reason, that doesn’t stop criminals.
Worse though, “gun safety champion” Rep. Driskell’s actions in the legislature show that in reality, she is exactly what Booker T. Washington warned of a century ago.
Rep. Driskell is actively promoting the very laws that stripped people like her grandparents and great grandparents of their dignity, freedom, and their lives.
Like many other states, Florida’s history of gun control can be traced back to Jim Crow. After the Union Army pulled out of Florida following Reconstruction, bigoted Democrats regained control of the legislature and re-wrote the state constitution in 1885 to disarm freed black Floridians.
The right of the people to bear arms in defense [sic] of themselves, and the lawful authority of the State, shall not be infringed, but the legislature may prescribe the manner in which they may be borne. – Article 1, Section 20, Florida State Constitution, 1885.
As a result, segregationists running the Florida legislature passed a gun control law in 1893 and further revised it in 1901 and 1906. In each case, they prohibited the carrying of handguns and repeating rifles, openly or concealed, with the exceptions for peace officers and persons licensed by a county commissioner.
The entire system was a “may issue” process in which the licensing authority could on a whim deny the issuance of a permit to any one of their choosing. Black Floridians were unilaterally disarmed because of this law and were susceptible to violent attacks.
Attacks occurred against individuals and against groups. One horrific example was the Ocoee massacre, where an affluent Black community in Orange County was utterly destroyed on November 2, 1920. What was so special about that day? It was election day, and the goal was to keep Blacks from voting. The FBI showed up a few weeks later, not to investigate the murders or arson, but only to investigate the election fraud.
No one was ever prosecuted for the violence and loss of life.
There was also the Rosewood massacre in Levy County where another affluent Black community was burned to the ground in 1923 under the false pretenses of rape.
On the individual level, numerous Black Floridians were the target of racially- motivated violence. One such instance is that of Rubin Stacy, a Black man in Fort Lauderdale who was lynched in 1935 after he was accused of assault and rape because he was Black. Instead of being tried by a jury of his peers in a court of law, Rubin Stacy was dragged from a Sheriff’s car and lynched in broad daylight.
Justice Buford blew the issue wide open in 1941 when he wrote in the opinion of Watson v. State on the truth about Florida’s racist roots of gun control.
“I know something of the history of this legislation. The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of Negro laborers in this state drawn here for the purpose of working in turpentine and lumber camps. The same condition existed when the act was amended in 1901 and the act was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers.”
“The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied.”
“It is a safe guess that more than 80 percent of the white men living in rural sections of Florida have violated this statute. It is also a safe guess to say that not more than 5 percent of the men in Florida who own pistols and repeating rifles have ever applied to the Board of County Commissioners for a permit to have the same in their possession and there has never been, within my knowledge, any effort to enforce the provisions of this statute as to white people, because it has been generally conceded to be in contravention of the Constitution and non-enforceable if contested.”
Gun control has been used to disarm minorities in Florida throughout history. We should have long since moved past that in the Sunshine State in the 21st century. Legislators who claim to be in favor of equality should know that better than anyone.
Rep. Driskell isn’t really for the advancement of equality and freedom in Florida. Her efforts to keep Floridians from having full access to their right to defend themselves makes that clear. Floridians should call on Rep. Driskell to actually walk the walk of support for civil rights by no longer blocking access to firearms for people of color.
Luis Valdes is the Florida Director for Gun Owners of America.