Push back hard against the NRA’s law­suit

The Columbus Dispatch - - Opinion - Mi­ami Her­ald

Florida — one of the most gun-friendly states in the na­tion, which took 30 years to en­act any gun-con­trol mea­sures, whose gov­er­nor con­sis­tently gets the National Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion’s equiv­a­lent of a gold star and that se­ri­ously con­sid­ered let­ting col­lege stu­dents bring guns onto cam­pus — now, in­cred­i­bly, is in the NRA’s crosshairs.

Fri­day, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law gun re­forms that, right up to Feb. 13, nei­ther he nor NRA-com­pli­ant Repub­li­cans in the state Leg­is­la­ture could ever have imag­ined dar­ing to even sug­gest. Then, Feb. 14. Seven­teen peo­ple were shot dead. That many again were wounded. A teenage gun­man had ram­paged through the halls of the fresh­man build­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Broward County. Niko­las Cruz, 19, was armed with an A-15 semi-au­to­matic ri­fle, was ar­rested, jailed and, last week, in­dicted on 17 counts of first-de­gree mur­der and 17 counts of at­tempted mur­der.

Stone­man Dou­glas sur­vivors — stu­dents and fac­ulty, par­ents and al­lies — marched loudly on Tallahassee. The GOP-led body did its best to ig­nore them. Didn’t work. Weeks later a bi­par­ti­san pack­age of gun re­stric­tions emerged that now is Florida law. The re­stric­tions raise the min­i­mum age to buy any firearm to 21. Cruz could legally pur­chase his AR-15 when he was 18, which is pre­cisely what he did. The new laws ex­tend the wait­ing pe­riod to three days be­fore a pur­chaser can ob­tain a gun; they ban bump stocks, de­vices that, when at­tached to a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle, let it fire even faster. They fund en­hanced school se­cu­rity and men­tal-health ser­vices.

Most con­tro­ver­sially, the law al­lows schools to arm spe­cific em­ploy­ees — coaches, li­brar­i­ans and coun­selors — but not full­time class­room teach­ers. That leg­is­la­tors backed off of arm­ing class­room teach­ers of­fers a small mea­sure of re­lief. How­ever, we con­tinue to think that staffers with guns gen­er­ally is an un­wise move, fraught with the risk of the wrong peo­ple dy­ing. Stone­man stu­dents them­selves and, ac­cord­ing to re­cent polls, the ma­jor­ity of Florid­i­ans do not back more guns in school.

The re­forms do not in­clude an as­sault-weapons ban, which stu­dents fer­vently sought. But that’s ba­si­cally a third-rail is­sue for Repub­li­cans and, there­fore, a non­starter.

For most Florid­i­ans, the re­forms are long, long over­due. How­ever, for a gov­er­nor who has an A+ NRA rat­ing, who would oth­er­wise never think of pok­ing his bene­fac­tor in the eye, who might like to as­cend, unim­peded by con­tro­versy, to higher of­fice, sign­ing the Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School Pub­lic Safety Act was prac­ti­cally a pro­file in courage — a stun­ning break from the NRA.

In re­sponse, the NRA, in its re­lent­less push to arm the universe, has sued the state of Florida for what it calls a “blan­ket ban” that pro­hibits any­one be­tween 18 and 21 from buy­ing a gun. The suit gives Florida, and the na­tion, the chance to see if the gov­er­nor con­tin­ues to stand firm and coura­geous by push­ing the state’s le­gal team to mount a vig­or­ous de­fense of Florida’s ef­forts to pro­tect its peo­ple.

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