Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott just made an announcement that sounds like the first “CLINK CLINK” of a chisel away at the platform of the NRA.
Scott broke with Trump, the NRA, and the party line on how best to prevent school shootings like last week’s massacre at a Parkland, FL high school last week.
Scott contradicted Trump’s own statements, saying that he was against arming teachers and advocating for bringing in law enforcement to keep schools safe.
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He stepped out with a comprehensive plan that goes against every ideal and every practice in the NRA playbook.
“I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who has mental issues to use a gun. I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who is a danger to themselves or others to use a gun,” Scott said.
The governor wants to ban violent or mentally ill people from getting access to guns, bar anyone under the age of 21 from getting access to guns, and outlaw “bump stocks,” which make automatic weapons fire faster and were used in the Las Vegas shooting last year.
Scott declined to ban the AR-15, the gun allegedly used in the Parkland massacre. This was the survivors’ key demand. The governor said that banning one type of gun wouldn’t solve the problem.
Whether you think Scott’s move is comprehensive enough or not, the fact that he’s come out with this position at all is a watershed moment. If he succeeds in enacting these changes, he may well be opening Pandora’s box for the NRA.
The National Rifle Association staunchly opposes even starting a conversation about common sense gun control for fear that small restrictions on guns could establish legal precedent and open the door for increasingly sweeping restrictions down the line.
This, even though support for universal background checks for gun purchases is near-universal among gun owners: 97 – 3, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. The same poll reports support for stricter gun control is at 50 – 44 percent support among gun owners, 62 – 35 percent support from white voters with no college degree and 58 – 38 percent support among white men.
The NRA refuses to even start the conversation because the organization knows that common sense reforms are actually quite popular even with their membership. And they know that establishing legal precedent is dangerous for their cause.
It’s the same line of thinking that motivates the ACLU to defend the indefensible – they’ll defend the free speech rights of the despicable, like the KKK, to defend the free speech rights of all.
“If we don’t protect the free speech rights of all, we risk having the government arbitrarily decide what is, or is not, acceptable speech,” an ACLU spokesperson said in one instance related to the defense of the KKK.
That same line of thinking can be applied to the NRA, then. If they don’t protect the gun rights of all – including the mentally ill and criminally violent – then they conceivably risk having the government “arbitrarily” decide who is or is not an acceptable gun owner.
That explains why the NRA’s Florida lobbyist responded to Scott’s – admittedly tepid – proposed gun controls in the wake of a horrific mass shooting. She called it “gratuitous.”
Scott seems to be putting his money where his mouth is with the plan. He announced $450 million towards law enforcement officers in every school, mental health professionals whose only job would be counseling students, and upgrading school security with metal detectors, bulletproof glass, reinforced doors and other measures. He also directed state officials to abandon $180 million in proposed tax cuts to pay for a “see something say something” hotline.
This may be the tipping point on this issue. If one Republican governor can contradict himself – Scott signed a 2011 bill to ban doctors from asking patients whether they owned a gun – then maybe more can do the about face on gun control. It’s a small concession, but you only need one “first.”