April 23, 2015

Backyard gun range ban finds new life

After a House committee in March killed a bill to limit shooting rights on residential property, the full House revived it Thursday by tacking it onto another piece of legislation.

The original bill was filed by Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, after a local man started constructing a gun range in his yard, much to the dismay of his neighbors.

Currently, it’s legal in Florida to shoot a gun on residential property unless it’s done “recklessly or negligently.” Gun rights activists have said this is sufficient to cover any dangerous gun activity.

Despite loud opposition from the National Rifle Association, the amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, passed easily Thursday in the House.

In debate, Rouson said he was thankful the ban on what have been called backyard gun ranges could possibly be passed into law.

“This bill will take care of those types of situations,” he said. “It’s about public safety, and I’m so grateful that the NRA and Police Chiefs Association have worked together to make this a good product.”

The amendment makes shooting in residential areas — including for target practice or in celebration — is a first-degree misdemeanor unless it’s for defense or “does not pose a reasonably foreseeable risk to life, safety or property.”

But even that language required bringing people together who had taken opposing stands in the original committee hearing in March. Among them, Marion Hammer, the NRA’s lobbyist in Tallahassee, whose big personality Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, referred to on the floor.

“(Trumbull) did something in this session we thought would never ever get done,” Pilon said, “in bringing all the stakeholders together, especially one lady we all know.”

September 18, 2014

NRA endorses Rick Scott

From a press release:

Fairfax, Va. – On behalf of our five million members across the country, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is proud to endorse Rick Scott for reelection as Governor of Florida.

Based on his leadership on Second Amendment issues, Governor Scott has earned an “A+” rating from the NRA-PVF in the 2014 general election. An “A+” is the highest possible rating and is reserved for elected officials with an excellent public record on critical NRA issues who have also made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment.

“Rick Scott has an unmatched record of support for the Second Amendment in Florida,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman of the NRA-PVF. “Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history. Law-abiding gun owners in Florida have a true friend in Rick Scott.”

In addition to the many bills Governor Scott personally signed into law, he also supports Florida’s “Castle Doctrine” law and the hard-fought parking lot law. He respects and supports Florida’s unique hunting heritage and recognizes it is a valuable tool for wildlife management and conservation. Governor Scott rejects expanded licensing and registration schemes, and so-called “universal background checks.”

“We can continue to count on Rick Scott to stand up for our constitutional freedoms in Florida,” added Cox. “On behalf of the NRA’s five million members, I want to thank Rick for his steadfast support of the Second Amendment and urge all NRA members, gun owners and sportsmen in Florida to vote Rick Scott for Governor on November 4.”


April 25, 2014

..now about Marco Rubio's NRA gun-rights rating, national press....


Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was invited by the National Rifle Association to speak Friday at its annual gala in Indianapolis along with other potential Republican candidates for governor.

No surprise there.

But this sentence in the Associated Press story about the event stands out: "Rubio opposed limiting gun rights after Sandy Hook, but he also saw his NRA grade drop from an A to a B+ amid criticism of his stance on some gun-rights legislation."

No qualms with the first half of that, but the second part is odd. And, national reporters who cover Rubio might want to know that it doesn't tell the full story about Rubio's positions or the NRA's system.

The national NRA only gives out grades to federal candidates in cycle. Wouldn't it be strange if it invited a senator who 1) pressed its agenda at the least of popular times (Sandy Hook) and 2) got docked a grade anyway?

The state NRA did, however, give Rubio a B+ in 2010, despite an otherwise A-rated gun-rights record.


Continue reading "..now about Marco Rubio's NRA gun-rights rating, national press...." »

December 10, 2013

FL Appeals Court rules public colleges, universities can't regulate guns on campus


A Florida appeals court on Tuesday handed down a potentially far-reaching ruling that would block state universities from regulating guns on campus.

The 1st District Court of Appeal _ in a rare opinion decided by the entire appeals court _ sided with a University of North Florida student and a gun rights group that challenged a university rule that bans students on campus from storing guns in their cars.

In a lengthy decision that prompted a strong dissent as well as multiple concurring opinions the appeals court ruled that the Florida Legislature has pre-empted the regulation of guns by local governments and state agencies.

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August 09, 2013

On SYG, Democrats no match for Republican unity

Friday came and went without Democrats filing the necessary 32 letters, a first step state law requires from lawmakers for a special session on Florida’s stand your ground law.

They have until October to get the letters in, but the House Democratic Leader, Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, predicted last week that at least 32 letters would be filed at the Secretary of State’s office by now, enough to trigger a poll of the lawmakers to order a special session. (It's a longshot, with 96 lawmakers needed to agree to it).

Instead, according to Secretary of State spokesman Mark Ard, the department had received 28 letters, all Democrats.

They are:


Continue reading "On SYG, Democrats no match for Republican unity" »

Florida Sheriffs Association: We back Stand Your Ground as written


Remember when we wrote that Florida Gov. Rick Scott was probably on safe political ground by backing  Stand Your Ground? Here's this Florida Sheriffs Association press release is more evidence:

FSA President, Sheriff Grady Judd, today announced, “The right to self-defense is well-established in law.  The Florida Sheriffs confirmed this position by voting unanimously, at the 2013 Florida Sheriffs Association Summer Conference, to support the Stand Your Ground law as it is currently written.  Our current judicial system is comprised of multiple checks and balances to ensure fair and equitable application of all laws, including Stand Your Ground.”

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law:

"A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity, and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."
F.S. §776.013(3)

August 08, 2013

Dream Defenders to launch massive voter registration drive

The Dream Defenders, who are marking Day 24 of their Capitol sit-in outside Gov. Rick Scott's office, announced they are launching a massive drive to register 61,550 voters by 2014 -- the margin Scott won by in the 2010 election. 

"We intend to register the people that are forgotten - the black, the brown, the indigent, the poor, the LGBT community and we will meet them where they are, in the classrooms, in the mall, at the club, on the corner, at the bus stop" said the Dream Defenders Executive Director Philip Agnew at a press conference Thursday.

He said the effort, which would enlist students on Florida campuses, would be geared toward issues, not candidates. "At the end of the day, we are not blue or red."

There's a need to "build power," Agnew said, so that "when the time comes again for us to move on issues like the school-to-prison pipeline, like racial profiling, like Stand Your Ground, we don't have to sit on the floor again."

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August 04, 2013

Jesse Jackson's updated slogan: "I am somebody... who misleads, inflames."


Jesse Jackson inspired generations with his mantra: “I am somebody.”

But these days, as he spouts misleading statistics and over-the-top rhetoric about Florida and gun violence, three alternatives to his famous slogan come to mind:

I am misleading.

I am inflammatory.

I am counterproductive.

While his call to fight racial injustice is righteous, Jackson’s tactics haven’t done much to help the Dream Defenders protestors, who have occupied a part of the Florida Capitol outside Gov. Rick Scott’s office in opposition to Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law.

Continue reading "Jesse Jackson's updated slogan: "I am somebody... who misleads, inflames."" »

August 03, 2013

Rap star Talib Kweli plans to visit Dream Defender protest outside Rick Scott's office


First, it was a Tweet from the rapper Nas.

Then legendary entertainer and civil-rights activist Harry Belafonte paid a visit to the Miami-based youth activists known as the Dream Defenders, who have spent nearly three weeks camped outside Gov. Rick Scott's office.

Then came Jesse Jackson, followed by activist and poet Kevin Powell.

Now Talib Kweli, one of the biggest names in thoughtful rap is planning to come by Thursday and lend his support, according to the group's organizer, Phillip Agnew.

The Dream Defenders have demanded Scott call a special session to address the Stand Your Ground self-defense law, racial profiling and the school-to-prison pipeline. They don't care that Scott has refused. The Dream Defenders say they won't leave until their demands are met.

Yesterday, some of their nonviolent protesting paid off when the House announced hearings into the self-defense law connected to the shooting death of Miami Gardens 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

The Dream Defenders, who began their protest July 16, three days after George Zimmerman's not guilty verdict in the case, has been allowed to stay in the Capitol on nights and weekends, though the number of protesters has been dwindling in recent days.

Visits like Talib Kweli's, and press from Michael Skolnik's Global Grind, are a must to help keep the group's message in the media and in the public.  (One Talib Kweil line from an old tracks, "Sharp Shooters," is particularly apt: "Know your gun laws.")

So the Dream Defenders might be there for the long haul. At this rate, the group could be in the Capitol until the first Tuesday in March, when the regular legislative session begins. And chances are slim that the Republican-controlled Legislature will change Stand Your Ground or reform the prison system amid protests from liberal-leaning activists.

But stranger things have happened.

--with Kathleen McGrory

July 29, 2013

Trayvon's mom: Stand Your Ground helped Zimmerman 'get away with murder'


The mother of Trayvon Martin said Monday that she believed Florida’s Stand Your Ground law played a role in son’s shooting death, but she wasn’t ready to back a boycott of the state for not changing the self-defense law.

“The thing about this law is I just think it assisted the person who killed my son to get away with murder,” Sybrina Fulton, the mother of the 17-year-old from Miami Gardens said at a National Bar Association event in Miami Beach.

“I think we have to change these laws so people don’t get away with murder,” she said, adding that her son was unarmed and peacefully walking back to his dad’s place when he was pursued initially by George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman successfully pleaded self defense in the killing when a jury acquitted him July 13 in Sanford.

But the exact role of Stand Your Ground in the case isn’t clear. Only two jurors have spoken up to CNN and ABC, and just one referenced the law, which allows a person to more easily use deadly force without having to first retreat in a confrontation.

Zimmerman’s legal team didn’t focus on mounting a Stand Your Ground defense, however, saying that a common self-defense justification was all the 29-year-old man needed because he reasonably feared that Trayvon, who jumped him, was going to gravely injure him during a fistfight.

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