The Gunshine State


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jsalcedo
October 18, 2005, 03:10 PM
http://news.tbo.com/news/MGB77C8MXEE.html


The Gunshine State


By KEVIN BEGOS and JEROME R. STOCKFISCH The Tampa Tribune

Published: Oct 18, 2005


TALLAHASSEE -- A new chapter in the old debate over gun control is starting to unfold in Florida, and part of the story is tucked away in Shari Kotsch's purse.

Kotsch, a Pasco County resident who works from home, decided to apply for a concealed weapons license about six months ago.

"My husband and I both signed up for the class," she said, in part because she always felt like an "easy target" in a world that's "going crazy."

Now, Kotsch takes her pistol everywhere. Her mother and mother-in-law -- both widows -- now carry, too.

Kotsch and her relatives have plenty of company.

Florida has more concealed weapons license holders than Texas, and the Tampa Bay region alone has more than the entire state of California.

It suggests that gun control groups that accuse pro-gun politicians of being stooges for the National Rifle Association are missing a key point: The gun culture isn't just a few gun nuts who read Soldier of Fortune magazine.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there are 354,552 concealed weapons licenses in the state. That means one out of every 49 Floridians has a permit to pack heat.

In California, just one of every 795 citizens has a concealed weapons license; in Texas, one in 95. At the Florida rate, 1,300 fans at a sold-out Bucs game could have more than some cold drinks tucked away in the car.

And keeping a firearm in a vehicle is the focus of proposed legislation that is once again turning national attention on the gun-friendly nature of the Florida Legislature. The bill would guarantee Floridians the right to keep their firearm in their car at work -- overriding some employers' prohibition of guns in their parking lots.

A showdown in the legislative session that begins in March will likely extend beyond the traditional left-right, pro- and antigun factions of the past. This time, business and property rights versus the Second Amendment right to bear arms is on the line. Both of those camps are Republican strongholds.

"We are a mobile society. People drive to and from work," said Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the NRA who helped craft the legislation. Business owners "have no more right to tell you what you can and can't have in your vehicle than they have a right to tell you what you can and can't have in your home."

Oklahoma Pink Slips
State Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said he began to consider the situation in Florida when he learned of what he considered a troubling case in Oklahoma.

A Weyerhaeuser paper plant there had a policy banning guns from company property, including the parking lot. Twelve employees were fired when they were found to have guns in their vehicles.

The Oklahoma Legislature responded by passing a law allowing workers to keep their weapons locked and stowed in their cars. Several major employers sued to block the state law, and the case is pending.

Energy company ConocoPhillips led the charge against the law, and in August the NRA called for a nationwide boycott on company products.

Baxley calls the parking-lot ban "back-door gun control."

House Bill 129 prohibits employers from enforcing policies banning secured and lawfully transported firearms in their parking lots. It makes a violation by any business a third-degree felony. The bill also immunizes businesses from civil action if those weapons are used in a crime.

Concern over workplace violence has sparked many employers -- including Walt Disney World Resort and its fellow theme-park operators in Central Florida -- to ban weapons.

Zach Ragbourn, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said Baxley's legislation "is a dangerous combination" with Florida's already permissive gun laws.

"That can't lead to safety," he said.

That logic doesn't impress state Rep. Faye Culp, a Tampa Republican who has signed on as a sponsor of the House bill.

"Workplace violence can happen at any point, and it doesn't necessarily mean the person is going to have a gun. The person could wield a knife," said Culp, who grew up on a farm and is handy with a rifle.

Baxley's bill and a Senate companion were filed about the same time the Brady Campaign was garnering international attention by warning tourists at Miami International Airport about Florida's gun-happy ways.

Sparking the campaign was the so-called stand-your-ground gun law, which took effect Oct. 1. That law removed a duty to retreat and allowed people to use deadly force when they are attacked in any place they have a right to be.

Whose Rights Prevail?
Passing the parking-lot bill could require the Republican-dominated Legislature to sidestep a long-standing defense of property rights. As of last week, major players were noncommittal on the bill.

Officials of both the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida said their organizations haven't taken positions on the issue. A Disney spokesman said it was premature to comment on the bill. Gov. Jeb Bush said he hasn't seen it.

Gun owners are conflicted, too.

Mark Little, a retired law enforcement officer and employee at Shooting Sports on Dale Mabry Highway, said a gun is not a danger if it is secured in a car at the workplace.

"If someone's intent is to do harm, they are not going to let some stupid law or regulation stop them," Little said.

Others expressed concern for business owners' property rights. "If the company I work for doesn't want me to bring a gun to work, then that's their policy," said Ed Hoevet, a member of the NRA and supervisor at Shooting Sports.

Little said lawmakers should focus on ensuring that people permitted to carry concealed weapons are more skilled, rather than trying to limit or specify where they could be with the firearms.

Pasco resident Kotsch said not being able to keep a licensed gun in a car at work "kind of defeats the purpose of having the concealed weapons permit."

Catering to their fastest-growing group of new customers, managers at Shooting Sports have ladies night on Monday evenings, with free range time and discounts on gun rental and ammunition.

Pasco County resident Laurel Nash, who got a carry permit about four years ago, said she doesn't go anywhere without her gun and her cell phone.

"I love having my gun with me," said Nash, a widow. "When I go to Tampa at night, I'm coming back late. It's a necessity. Here alone at night, it's a big comfort."

Nash hopes she will never have to use her gun but said that if she's in serious danger, "I sure as heck will."

Groundbreaking Law
The expansion of what has come to be known as the "Castle Doctrine" -- that a person's home is his castle and he may use deadly force to protect it -- prompted predictions of Wild West encounters on Florida streets.

It is not the first time attention has turned toward Florida over firearms.

In 1987, the state passed a groundbreaking right-to-carry law allowing Floridians to carry concealed firearms with a permit. According to the NRA, 40 of the 50 states either outlawed or restrictively regulated concealed firearms before Florida's action; today, 38 states have right-to-carry laws.

The Legislature has also released shooting ranges from responsibility for the cleanup of lead at their facilities. And it has prevented law enforcement agencies from compiling lists of gun owners.

All those measures were endorsed or instigated by the NRA.

Critics complain about the gun lobby's clout in Tallahassee. Culp, the Tampa representative, doesn't flinch.

"I don't have any problems with people talking about how closely we are in alignment with the NRA," she said. "We work with the NRA ... in making sure we have our rights to our guns."

Pinellas County gun instructor Bill Bunting said people in many parts of Florida society agree with such talk, including some who have come from Northern states with tough gun laws.

Scott Wheelock grew up in Massachusetts, and he recently took a handgun training class with Bunting.

"I like the idea of having the option," Wheelock said, citing concerns about recent violent crime in his neighborhood. Wheelock said his fiancÚ also likes having the option to carry a concealed weapon, but the couple are still deciding whether to buy handguns.

Women make up 14 percent of concealed weapons license holders in Florida, according to the most recent statistics. Almost 39 percent of license holders are older than 50.

Statistics aren't likely to lead the undecided to any firm conclusion on gun issues in Florida.

Gov. Bush and others have noted that Florida's overall crime rate is at a 30-year low. But slayings committed with firearms have crept up over the past five years, and the number of violent crimes committed with firearms has stayed relatively stable, with more than 25,000 incidents per year statewide.

Yet nationwide statistics show that California, with its tough gun-control laws, has a higher per-capita rate of violent firearm crime than either Texas or Florida, according to the Violence Policy Center in Washington.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Monday released its semiannual report on crime. Total crime declined 3.3 percent for the first six months of 2005, compared with 2004, but violent crime increased 0.6 percent -- the first rise since 2001. Slayings committed with firearms were down 15.1 percent, but forcible rapes involving a firearm increased 26.9 percent.

Baxley, the sponsor of the new legislation, said he is "challenging the whole idea that having a firearm is suspect in itself. To me, the firearm is not the problem."

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Standing Wolf
October 18, 2005, 06:38 PM
...nationwide statistics show that California, with its tough gun-control laws, has a higher per-capita rate of violent firearm crime than either Texas or Florida, according to the Violence Policy Center in Washington.

Even the blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn.

El Tejon
October 18, 2005, 07:43 PM
1 in 49 carry in Florida? What nonsense! How many of those 354K CCWs are issued to people with out of state addresses?

What is it about the media to believe that Florida is the first state to do something gunwise or has tons of people who carry?

The men in my family, including yours truly, all have Florida permits and no one in my family has stepped a foot on Florida soil. (Well, long time ago we did, but those guys were wearing blue suits and saying stuff like "Hoozah for the Union!").:D

el44vaquero
October 18, 2005, 09:17 PM
Does anyone else feel as warm and fuzzy as the thought of "The Land of The Blue Hairs" all packing heat?

I can almost see an old man with a walker reach into the basket hanging on the front and pull out a S&W 29. Clears his throat and does a Dirty Harry.

HighVelocity
October 18, 2005, 09:35 PM
Regardless of the details in that article, the more that the media talks about restrictive states (CA) having higher violent crime rates than those states with high numbers of folks with concealed handgun licenses the better! One can only hope that the obvious sinks in eventually.

Farnham
October 18, 2005, 10:25 PM
1 out of 49 Floridians, and only 1 out of 95 Texans? For shame! :D

Time to close that gap, gotta go talk to the wife again...:uhoh:

S/F

Farnham

Shootcraps
October 18, 2005, 10:49 PM
They started calling Florida The Gunshine State in 1985 when Florida started the CCW snowball by allowing citizens to get a permit without a "reason". The media had a feeding frenzy and said the streets would run red with blood from people shooting each other over parking spaces.

It ain't happened yet. ;)

MarkDido
October 19, 2005, 10:40 AM
1 in 49 carry in Florida? What nonsense! How many of those 354K CCWs are issued to people with out of state addresses?

What is it about the media to believe that Florida is the first state to do something gunwise or has tons of people who carry?

The men in my family, including yours truly, all have Florida permits and no one in my family has stepped a foot on Florida soil. (Well, long time ago we did, but those guys were wearing blue suits and saying stuff like "Hoozah for the Union!").:D

El.....

Since carrying a loaded weapon in our vehicles is legal and isn't considered "Concealed Carry", I'd be willing to bet that the number of Floridians who are armed AND away from there homes is probably more like 1 in 20

Janitor
October 19, 2005, 11:12 AM
Zach Ragbourn, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said Baxley's legislation "is a dangerous combination" with Florida's already permissive gun laws.

"That can't lead to safety," he said.
What an inciteful and well supported argument!

No wonder the Brady bunch is so successfull at whatever they decide to tackle. What with such eloquant speakers as Zach on their team.

AirForceShooter
October 19, 2005, 11:16 AM
As your car is an extension of your home under Fla law a CCW isn't required to have a weapon in your car/truck.
I once read ( and I forgot the source) that it's estimated half of all cars in Fla have a weapon in them.
From what I've seen around here it's quite possible.

Yeah, we're the Gunshine State

AFS

Aikibiker
October 19, 2005, 11:50 AM
I once read ( and I forgot the source) that it's estimated half of all cars in Fla have a weapon in them

The local police department offered a free CCW course, which I took along with a friend of mine and my mother. During the course the captain instructing us mentioned that locally about 90% of the cars on the road had a firearm in them. He got his statistics from the local fire department who apparently find a lot of guns at accident scenes and the like.

El Tejon
October 19, 2005, 12:00 PM
Mark, not exactly the same, but thank goodness the media didn't report that!:D

This article is just more hysteria from the media when the fact is only a small percentage of Floridians have CCWs (is Florida even in the top 10 of CCWing states? Have to check) and a fraction of those that have CCWs actually carry full time.

I object to the media hysteria and the way they breathlessly report any proposed modification of Florida law when these same modifications have been made in many other states without the "blood in streets" transpiring. The media should be held accountable for its hysteria.

Hkmp5sd
October 19, 2005, 03:35 PM
They started calling Florida The Gunshine State in 1985 when Florida started the CCW snowball by allowing citizens to get a permit without a "reason".

1987.

kage genin
October 19, 2005, 04:42 PM
Wait, the article was supposed to drum up anti-gun hysteria? I was reading it and foaming at the mouth with desire to MOVE TO FLORIDA! :D I say that Florida officially adopt the motto on their license plates: "The Gunshine State"
:D

Vagabond
October 19, 2005, 11:20 PM
They will never report the truth - that an armed populace is a safe populace, that we are just as "good" on balance as the anti's, that we aren't a bunch of thugs and hooligans and "good ol' boy's" (what exactly is it that makes you a good ol' boy anyway...), and that we tend to make lousy victims when we are armed. The same hysterical (and hysterically funny) BS makes the news each time our rights are protected or restored by a new Florida gun law. I sent in some more cash today. Lets get some more!

Anyone point out that violent crime, NATIONALLY, is down since the Right -To - Carry laws went into effect? I heard one Anti say that it was because of the easy access to abortion for the poor, not any stupid gun law...I think of it as very late term abortion, post birth as it were. My bad...

BTW, to those who bad mouth the NRA, it was Marion Hammer (past NRA Prez) who was the leader in getting the landmark Right to Carry law passed in Florida (as leader of the United Sportsmen of Florida) , and NRA members like me that footed the bill, from donations, not membership fees. You're welcome. Without that fight, the other 37 states may not have followed. Not all the pioneers went west.

My neighbor used to moan about the fact that I carried, and that I had so many guns around, "there outta be a law", she'd say...until that night when someone tried to break in her home.. then guess who she called...I wanted so bad to tell her to call Sarah Brady, or even the cops (who arrived within 30 minutes by the way), but I went there and whoever it was beat feet. No atheists in foxholes I guess.;)

If you enjoyed reading about "The Gunshine State" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!