Skip to comments.NRA shooting for more gun-friendly laws (FL)
Posted on 11/03/2005 11:11:01 AM PST by neverdem
TALLAHASSEE -- The National Rifle Association has been on a political roll in Florida.
During the past two years, the much-loved and much-loathed group has successfully lobbied Gov. Jeb Bush and state lawmakers to approve a series of controversial laws dealing with gun rights.
The prime example: a law passed this spring that makes it clear citizens can use force to fight back when attacked in public or in their homes or cars -- a law critics say threatens to turn Florida into a shoot-'em-up version of the Wild West.
Now, fresh from those victories, the NRA and its legislative allies want to try again.
Lawmakers have filed an NRA-backed measure aimed at ensuring gun owners can keep firearms in their locked vehicles while they are at work. The measure could touch off a political battle in the coming months, with some businesses arguing it would infringe on their ability to keep guns off company property.
Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the NRA and former president of the group, said businesses violate the constitutional rights of workers when they set policies banning guns from parked cars. She said gun owners have the right to keep firearms in their cars for protection or for such things as hunting.
"That's your own personal private property," said Hammer, who is based in Tallahassee. "That's an extension of your home."
But some business and gun-control advocates say companies need to be able to set policies that they think will improve safety and prevent workplace violence. The proposal would take away the authority of businesses to decide whether employees can bring guns into company parking lots.
"What's dangerous is having people in the state capital make that decision in advance about every kind of worker in every kind of situation," said Zach Ragbourn, a spokesman for the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
The issue, which likely will play out during the spring legislative session, comes after Bush and the Republican-dominated House and Senate have sided with the NRA on key issues during the past two regular sessions.
The so-called "no retreat" bill that passed this spring drew national attention because it gave citizens more legal authority to use force if they are attacked. While supporters said the law was needed for people to protect themselves, gun-control advocates were outraged.
In 2004, the NRA won a major victory when lawmakers passed a bill that sharply limited the ability of law-enforcement agencies to keep computerized records about gun ownership. Also, lawmakers passed another controversial NRA-backed bill that helped shield gun ranges from lawsuits about environmental contamination.
The string of NRA successes has rankled critics ranging from gun-control advocates to environmental groups.
"This is the most NRA-friendly Legislature in the entire United States," said Arthur Hayhoe, executive director of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. But in most of the issues, Hammer and her supporters argue they are trying to protect the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
" 'It's kind of disappointing you've got to file bills to protect your Second Amendment rights," said Rep. Mitch Needelman, a Melbourne Republican who has filed another NRA-backed bill for next session that would not allow police to confiscate weapons during states of emergency such as hurricanes.
The NRA has long been a powerful player in Republican politics in Florida and in Washington. Since January 2002, for example, the group has contributed $85,000 to the state Republican Party.
But unlike many of Tallahassee's most-influential groups, the NRA doesn't send in battalions of lobbyists to help pass bills. Instead, the group is represented by Hammer, a blunt, tough-talking woman whom Bush selected last year for a spot in the Florida Women's Hall of Fame.
Also, unlike lobbies that shower money on lawmakers and the political parties, the NRA derives a large part of its power from the ability to organize members.
Matt Corrigan, a political science professor at the University of North Florida, said he thinks the NRA's financial contributions are secondary in its success.
"It's more organization than money," Corrigan said.
The NRA's influence could face a test next spring if business groups -- which also are powerful players in Republican politics -- decide to fight the bill about guns in parking lots. The bill stems from a case in Oklahoma where 12 workers at a Weyerhauser plant were fired because they had guns in their vehicles.
Two major business groups, Associated Industries of Florida and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, said they are surveying members to decide whether to take a position on the issue. Barney Bishop, president of Associated Industries, said his group might stay out of the issue.
"What I think we're going to find out is that they (members) are on both sides of the fence," Bishop said.
But other groups already are raising concerns about the measure. Lou Fifer, president of the Volusia Manufacturers Association, said the issue came up during a recent meeting and the board members generally favored allowing businesses to continue setting policies about guns, though the board hasn't voted on the issue.
Also, Rick McAllister, president of the Florida Retail Federation, said his group would oppose the bill as it is proposed. McAllister said his group does not usually disagree with the NRA but its opposition is based on an employer having a "right to have a set of work rules."
"I just think they may have taken this a little bit too far," McAllister said.
But Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican who is sponsoring the bill in the House, said many people keep guns in their cars for protection. He said they should be allowed to have guns unless they are doing something illegal.
Baxley and Senate sponsor Durell Peaden, R-Crestview, said they also think many cars parked at the state Capitol probably have guns inside. Peaden, who sometimes keeps shotguns in his car for hunting, said he thinks the issue has been blown out of proportion.
"It's like a witch hunt," Peaden said. "Sometimes I even forget the shotguns are in the trunk of my car."
Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida lawmakers have sided repeatedly with the National Rifle Association during the past two years in approving controversial gun-related laws. Lawmakers already have filed at least two NRA-backed bills for the 2006 session:
Passed in 2004
· Restricted the ability of law-enforcement agencies to keep electronic records, such as databases, about gun ownership. The NRA said the law was needed to protect the rights of lawful gun owners, while critics said it would hurt the ability of police to solve gun-related crimes.
· Blocked government agencies from suing gun ranges over environmental contamination from spent ammunition. The NRA said the law was needed to protect gun ranges from overzealous government officials, while environmental groups said dangerous substances such as lead are found at gun ranges and can enter water supplies.
Passed in 2005
· Allowed citizens to meet "force with force" if they are attacked in public, removing the legal expectation that people will retreat from confrontations. The NRA said the law would enable people to defend themselves, while opponents said it could lead to shoot-outs.
· Removed the Humane Society of the United States as the recipient of money collected from sales of the "Animal Friends" license tag. The NRA touted the move, saying the humane society is "vehemently opposed to hunting and sportsmen's rights," but the society said the change was "much ado about nothing."
Proposals for 2006
· Bills ensure gun owners could keep firearms in locked, parked vehicles. The NRA is pushing the bills, at least in part, because many businesses do not allow employees to keep guns in their cars in company parking lots -- a practice that businesses say is needed to maintain safety.
· Bill makes clear that government could not confiscate guns during states of emergency, such as hurricanes. The NRA supports the bill after a dispute in New Orleans about whether police could take people's weapons during the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
So, the "no retreat" law has now been in effect for what---six months or so, and I have yet to hear/read about even ONE incident from Florida where the "new gun right" has been abused.
You can bet your entire retirement savings that if there HAD been EVEN ONE, that the "Brady Bunch" and their allies in the "Stone Age Media" would have had news of it plastered across all available bandwidth.
I do believe there has been one case but I'm not sure of it's outcome. I think one guy had a pipe and the other had a gun.
"Bill makes clear that government could not confiscate guns during states of emergency, such as hurricanes. The NRA supports the bill after a dispute in New Orleans about whether police could take people's weapons during the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."
-- bump. gave me a real sick feeling to watch that happening.
Wish to God we had reps in the US Senate that were this Pro-active.
I can imagine a guy who is intent on gunning down the entire HR department, but stops at the last minute because he doesn't want to violate the company policy on weapons in the parking lot.
Blood in the streets. Every fender bender will turn into an old west shootout.
We need to outlaw guns completely so Florida will be as safe as the streets of Washington DC.
My GGrandfather killed a man in total self defense but was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Fortunately the Governor realized an injustice had been done and gave him a pardon.
Never take a peice of pipe to a gun fight!
Well, it sure as heck ain't the climate.
I'm not sure this is the best idea in the world. I was in favour of the other motions and I'm glad this went through, but won't this just encourage criminals to break into cars more and cause more legally purchased guns to end up on the black market? I am just asking. Unattended guns in public places seems like a poor idea to me. It's different in a home where they could be needed for self-defence, and they can be locked up and kept in a safe place. At least, in my mind it is. Thoughts?
ya know, i'm split on this issue. The pro-gunner in me says that this is a great idea, but the capitalist in me asks what is the government doing interfering with private industry? This is truly going to be an interesting one to watch. When do the rights of one individual (the worker) trump the rights of another (the business owner)? The patriot in me wants RKBA everywhere but by having the government intervene in a case like this, one can't help but wonder if this will harm businesses in any way.
Here is Still Thinking's heirarchy of rights:
6. Drug Warriors
7. Anything MADD approves of
I find myself suppporting a change only for corporations, who already receive a benefit of limited financial liability for their businesses. It seems perfectly reasonable to constrain corporations from infringing rights. Sole proprietors and other privately held businesses could still make their own decisions.
From a practical viewpoint, I can't see some mom-and-pop grocery store banning firearms if the local supremarket chain is disallowed.
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