Florida is home to more licensed concealed carriers than any other state. Yet it remains one of the handful of states that don’t allow open carry (outside of hunting, fishing and camping). Although it’s hardly practiced — thanks to law enforcement that’s ready, willing and able to charge open carriers with disorderly conduct or breach of peace — even gun-averse Massachusetts recognizes the right to bear arms in plain view. What’s up with that?
According to wikipedia.org, 4,733,359 registered Democratic voters call Florida home, compared to 4,459,087 registered Republicans. That’s less than a three percent advantage. Donald Trump’s razor-thin victory — 4,617,886 votes to Hillary Clinton’s 4,504,975 — highlights the split. More to the point, it indicates the critical importance of Florida’s 2,949,668 unaffiliated voters.
Even though Florida’s state government is now solidly Republican, gun rights advocates pushing for open carry and the elimination of “gun free zones” ignore voters who are neither hard-core firearms freedom lovers nor gun control advocates at their peril.
The question: how to frame the debate?
If ditching “gun free” zones in the “Gunshine State” was simply a matter of appealing to reason, the argument speaks for itself. More accurately and tragically, the recent carnage at The Pulse nightclub and Fort Lauderdale airport’s baggage claim makes the point without the need for exposition.
Common sense tells voters that if someone (other than law enforcement) had been armed in the club or airport they could have defended themselves. And, perhaps, others. Precious lives may have been saved.
At the same time, it is both factually and logically demonstrable that none of the current gun control laws would have prevented the killing. And, by extension, other homicidal attacks. Ipso facto. It’s also hard if not impossible for the average person to imagine any law that would have forestalled the slaughter.
Which leaves opponents of eliminating gun free zones in a bind. Like this [via miamiherald.com]:
Dania Beach Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne — whose district includes the Fort Lauderdale airport and whose father, Ken, is a former Broward County sheriff — said it’s unrealistic to think armed bystanders could successfully intervene as a hero without consequence.
The more likely scenario, he and gun violence experts argue, would be that when police arrive on scene, they wouldn’t know which person with the gun was the instigating shooter, and that could delay aid to victims.
“You may get lucky and it may work once or twice,” Jenne said, “but I firmly believe in my heart of hearts that you’re just going to end up with a more chaotic situation and more people hurt and killed.”
Armed Americans adding to the death and injury toll during an attack is a more likely scenario? At the moment, it only exists in “gun violence experts'” imagination. Given the real-world coverage of the assaults trying to make that potential scenario more frightening than what actually happened is a strategy that’s, thankfully, doomed to failure.
In many ways, open carry is the heavier lift. It’s one thing to “allow” guns, whether in current “secure areas” or in the wild. It’s quite another to see them.
Even though there haven’t been any examples of open carriers gone wild in the states where it’s legal, the idea of openly armed people in everyday life is compelling to people who don’t own or carry firearms. And not in a good way.
Of course, that’s not an argument against open carry, per se. Which is why open carry opponents lump the elimination of “gun free zones” with open carry and generalize the issue, wringing their hands at the prospect of “guns everywhere.” Like this:
But gun experts and recent studies say easier access to guns won’t lead to a safer state.
“If it were true that having everyone armed all the time in our society was a recipe for a safer America, states that have more guns everywhere would be safer,” said Ari Freilich, staff attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “They would have lower rates of gun violence, gun deaths and mass shootings than states that have taken steps to take guns out of the public sphere.”
Gun control advocates are now “gun experts”? Puh-lease.
More importantly, you and I know that these “more guns equals more deaths” studies are biased and entirely misleading — by their own admission. To wit (from the link provided): “this correlation does not prove a causal relationship between stronger gun laws and fewer gun deaths.”
Even so, Freilich’s fake news statement sounds authoritative. It capitalizes on the general public’s general disinterest with statistics. And general ignorance about “gun violence.”
Overcoming this FUD to gain support for open carry requires . . . more gun owners. Only those who know that firearms are safe in their hands can truly understand how they can be safe in other’s hands. “Even” when the guns are in plain view.
There’s one thing missing in the Herald’s article on the debate in Florida over open carry and the elimination of “gun free zones” in Florida. Something that should supersede the pros and cons. The Second Amendment.
Americans have a natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms in any manner they wish. Truth be told, the “argument” over open carry and gun free zones was settled when the Bill of Rights was enacted on December 15, 1791.
The Florida campaign for open carry and the elimination of “gun free zones” is a clear case of gun rights restoration, a return to the principles that form the bedrock of our republic. Principles that can only be altered by amending the United States Constitution, and maybe not even then. It’s a shame that the pro-gun effort isn’t viewed as such.