Monday, March 12, 2018
It says a lot, and for once a lot of good, that only three weeks after the Parkland shooting in Florida, the governor of that state has signed a bill sent to him by his legislature changing gun law. At least Florida gun law.
For those of us who've been to Florida, and have friends in Florida, and family in Florida, and read the stories out of Florida, and watch the election returns coming in from always fickle Florida, this can be said with confidence: Florida isn't exactly . . . Oregon. (You'll note our expertise on geography.)
But if a state in good Southern standing like Florida can make real changes even as the NRA fumes, why not Arkansas?
Nothing in this bill would keep Gentle Reader awake at night. For all those who were demanding "common sense" gun laws after the latest school massacre, this would seem to do the trick. For starters, it will raise the minimum age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21. If it's written into the law that a body must be 21 to buy a handgun, and it is, then why not a rifle as well? Especially since these so-called assault rifles are the kinds of cool-looking guns that mass killers seem to prefer. And, for the record, this is one of the few changes that might have made a difference in Florida: The killer there was 19. The argument might be that 18-year-olds want go hunting and need a rifle. If they do, let their parents or adult relatives buy it and allow the kid to borrow it for a while. Surely they would know best how to secure the rifle until their 18-year-old is mature and sane enough to legally own it.
Also, there will now be a three-day waiting period to buy these rifles. Again, if it's copacetic for handguns, and it is, then why not? Hunting seasons are clearly marked. Nobody should be in a hurry to buy a 30.06 for deer season.
The bill Gov. Rick Scott signed had opposition on the one side from the NRA, and opposition on the other from folks who don't think the bill goes far enough. But the bill has enough good things in it that the opposition, even in the Florida legislature, lost out. Here are some of its parts:
• Bump stocks will now be banned. Some of us can't imagine why these things are still legal in the first place.
• The state will establish an anonymous tip line so students can report threats to schools.
• New mental health programs for schools are in the works, too, along with plans to help improve communication between the cops and the schools. What's not to like about that?
• And then there is what some would consider the most controversial part. Florida's lawmakers want to allow some teachers to be armed on campus on the following conditions: they volunteer, be properly trained by law enforcement, and their school districts agree. This is a far cry from "arming teachers," as the opposition puts it. Better it was termed "arming some teachers," if a number of prerequisites are met. To say otherwise is a sin of omission.
The president of the United States was heard from, too. He praised the Florida legislature for passing "a lot of very good legislation" on the matter.
The federales are working on their own bills. Which is smart. For what good will it do to ban bump stocks in Florida if Georgia sells them across the state line? There are several versions of bills changing gun laws wafting around Washington, D.C., these days, and one of them, by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal, is called a "red flag law."
The proposal would allow federal courts to keep guns out of the hands of the disturbed, if the so-called disturbed person shows warning signs of violence. Then family or friends could petition a court, and a judge would have to agree to it all. This is called due process. And after giving the process its due, if all these people think a body shouldn't have a weapon, then maybe a body shouldn't. The shooter in Florida certainly showed warning signs. It turned into a tragedy that nothing could be done about it. Red flag laws sound like a good idea--one that could save lives.
There really are things We the People can do to make it difficult on those intent on causing these calamities without disturbing the Second Amendment or the folks who want to buy a gun for legitimate reasons. Let's show that common sense is still common, and debate the same proposals in the next regular session of our own legislature.
If Florida can do this, Arkansas can, too. And should.
Editorial on 03/12/2018
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