January 03, 2013

Gun interest soars in Florida as 800k people request required background checks

Nearly 800,000 people requested background checks so they could buy guns in Florida in 2012 — far more than in any recent year.

Statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show 797,970 background checks were requested last year — nearly 200,000 more than were requested in 2011 and more than double the number for 2004, the earliest year for which statistics were provided.

The numbers were already higher than usual in the first 10 months of 2012, but surged after President Barack Obama won re-election in November and skyrocketed in the days after the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults.

The dramatic spike is likely fueled by fear that greater gun control laws may be passed after the Connecticut shooting.

"I don't think it has anything to do with the national tragedy. It's not the direct cause," said Marion Hammer, the chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Florida. "The direct cause is when politicians call for gun bans, that creates fear."

-- Aaron Sharockman

December 21, 2012

Fasano asks Scott to put resource officers in schools

State Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is urging Gov. Rick Scott to provide funding for school resource officers his budget in light of the Connecticut school massacre a week ago. 

Scott will release his proposed budget in the New Year and, in an interview on NewsMax on Thursday, he said he is open to allowing teachers to carry weapons.  Download Fasano letter on resource officers

"Although there are no guarantees, it is quite possible that the mere presence of a law enforcement officer on campus may be enough of a deterrent to curb or totally prevent school-based violence,'' Fasano wrote. "While this no doubt will be an expensive proposition, no price tag can be placed on the lives of the precious children our public schools are entrusted with each and every day of the school year."

Fasano's request comes after a parade of similar requests from across the state. David Golt, chief of Broward School's Special Investigative Unit, has called for funding for more resource officers. 

Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell and the county superintendent of schools made a similar request of the governor, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. Earlier in the week, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs proposed adding armed deputies at Central Florida elementary schools.

Others are calling for arming teachers with weaponry. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said teachers and principals should be allowed to carry guns. Baxley, an ardent guns rights advocate, is one of the authors of the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law. 

Meanwhile, Scott has urged all local school officials to review their security plans but he has been reluctant to outline details or suggest additional funding for the effort. 

Scott spokesman John Tupps said Friday the governor remains open to all ideas.

"Gov. Scott agrees that school safety is an important issue for Florida families,'' Tupps said in a statement. "As he finalizes his budget recommendations, he looks forward to working with legislators and others on their ideas.

 

December 20, 2012

NRA: Charlie Crist a hunter? Maybe for political office, not deer

Picture 13As he postures to run against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, newly minted Democrat and former Gov. Charlie Crist no longer wholeheartedly backs the NRA's agenda.

So Crist will no longer get the backing of the NRA.

Asked about Crist's gun flip flop yesterday, the NRA's Florida lobbyist and chief Marion Hammer took rhetorical aim.

"Are you surprised?" she said in an email to The Herald. "I'm not surprised that Charlie Crist is now joining the gun ban chant of anti-gun Democrats. Recently, Charlie Crist has been systematically turning his back on many things in which he has claimed to believe. He currently claims to be a deer hunter. I suspect that the only thing he has actually ever hunted is political office."

Crist was quite good at that, winning three statewide posts and only losing two statewide Senate races: a longshot 1998 bid against incumbent Bob Graham and the once-surprising 2010 loss to Marco Rubio.

The NRA backed Crist over Rubio.

But other events, the economy and the highly conservative electorate that year, overtook the governor. But for the events leading up to the Rubio loss, Crist had a sixth sense for perfectly positioning himself. So, in that regard, his shifted tone on guns is little surprise as he tries to boost his Democratic bonafides. Chances are, most gun voters are conservative and wouldn't have voted for the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Crist. 

Crist needs to appeal to liberals now, and reversing course on guns is just another star turn as he prepares to challenge Scott, who's now an easy pick for the NRA. Hammer said she doesn't regret backing Crist.

"At the time, he was steadfast in his support of the rights of law-abiding gun owners. We remain loyal to our supporters," she said. "If our supporters abandon the Second Amendment for political posturing or political gain, it's a whole new day."

Until now, Crist had a sterling NRA rating on guns while he was governor. But his actual firearm aim isn't so good. At least it wasn't in 2009, when Crist took a trip to the Tallahassee-area Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center with the namesake and his dad, media mogul Ted Turner (picture left). Crist was better with a bow and arrow than a 20-gauge shotgun. Like many people unfamiliar with target shooting clay pigeons, Crist didn't follow through on his shot.

In other Florida gun news, the state sometime yesterday issued its 1 millionth active concealed-weapon permit. We probably would have heard far more about the permits had the recent shooting taken place in Florida than Connecticut, which has far more restrictive laws than the Gunshine State (more about that here).

December 19, 2012

Flop-flop alert: Charlie Crist reverses course on gun control, now backs it

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who throughout his long political career has been staunchly pro-gun rights, said Wednesday that after the Connecticut school slayings, he now backs controls.

He expressed support for a renewed assault weapons ban, a size limit on ammunition clips and tougher background checks.

“We need to have some restrictions, that’s pretty obvious to most people,” Crist told the Tampa Bay Times prior to testifying before a Senate panel on voting laws. “What do you need a 30-clip magazine for?

“Not to go hunting deer. I can tell you that because I hunt deer.”

Crist recently became a Democrat and is considering a challenge to Gov. Rick Scott, who long has favored gun rights. Scott has refused to comment on gun measures after the Connecticut shootings, saying it is too early to debate.

More here

December 16, 2012

It's easier to kill with guns than regulate them more

Florida will hit the 1 million-mark for concealed-weapon permit-holders in the coming days, a stat reported last week that received scant attention.

That wouldn’t have been the case if Sandy Hook Elementary School was in what’s sometimes called “the Gunshine State” instead of Connecticut.

Reporters, advocates and experts would have descended on Florida, combed through its generous gun laws and examined the line between statute and slaughter.

That’s what we do as a society: We try to wring reason out of the senseless.

But we’re probably not soon going to find a solution to stopping mass shootings like those that happened in Connecticut, Oregon, Wisconsin, Colorado or Florida this year.

Nor will we have a reasonable debate, either. There is too much fear, too much money, too many conflicting statistics, too much emotion and too many divisive politics and agendas at play. That doesn’t mean more laws are or are not needed.

It’s just that it’s easier to kill with guns than regulate them more.

Column here

November 14, 2012

Stand Your Ground task force: It's a good law

Created in the wake of national uproar over Trayvon Martin’s shooting death, a 19-member task force spent six months traveling the state and taking public testimony about Florida’s most controversial self-defense law.

The result? Little, if anything, will change.

The task force commissioned by Gov. Rick Scott to review the Stand Your Ground law prepared its final report Tuesday, indicating that the law is mostly fine as it is.

In a report to the Legislature, the group offered up only minor tweaks to the Stand Your Ground law — including changes that could actually make it easier to claim self-defense after killing someone.

Read more here

 

October 05, 2012

Just before Fast & Furious, Florida had Operation Castaway

A sensational election-season report into the botched Operation Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation has cast new light on a simultaneous Florida firearms investigation linked to violence in Colombia, Honduras and Puerto Rico.

Called Operation Castaway, the Florida case has received far less attention than Fast and Furious. The latter became an embarrassing distraction for Obama’s administration when it was implicated in the death of a federal agent and Mexico massacres, according to federal documents and a new cross-border investigative report by the Spanish-language network Univision.

Two Justice Department officials resigned and a dozen more face possible disciplinary action after the September release of a scathing 512-page Inspector General’s report that detailed the “seriously flawed” Fast and Furious case in which Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents allowed AK 47-style firearms and other weapons to cross the border into Mexico.

The report never mentions the lesser-known Operation Castaway, and federal agents have pointed out numerous substantive differences with Fast and Furious.

 

But the Florida man imprisoned in Operation Castaway, Hugh Crumpler III, claims in court papers and in the Univision reports that the cases are alike because agents allowed guns to get into the hands of bad guys from Miami to Tampa to Jacksonville.

“There was no difference between Operation Fast and Furious and Operation Castaway,” Crumpler wrote last week in a federal court filing that seeks an early release from his 30-month prison sentence.

Federal agents in Operation Castaway said they intercepted nearly all the weapons he sold and tried to keep them in the country while Crumpler was under investigation. Crumpler’s customers were linked to gangs or cartels from Puerto Rico to Honduras, which is now one of the world’s most violent countries.

By contrast, Fast and Furious was designed to allow guns — about 2,000 — to go out of the country. Crumpler admitted he dealt about 1,000 firearms, including the notorious Fabrique Nationale Herstal semi-automatic handguns nicknamed cop-killing “ matapolicias” by cartel thugs who prize their armor-piercing capabilities.

“At no point during Operation Castaway did U.S. law enforcement officials allow illegally purchased firearms to be shipped to Honduras,” William Daniels, a spokesman for the Middle District of Florida’s U.S. attorney’s office said in a written statement.

“Specific knowledge about weapons exported by this criminal group to Honduras was developed over the course of the investigation, after the weapons had already been shipped,” he said. “U.S. authorities had no prior knowledge of these shipments.”

More here


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/05/v-fullstory/3036670/before-fast-furious-florida-had.html#storylink=cpyMore here

September 12, 2012

Preliminary data on Stand Your Ground law remains murky

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll has repeatedly said that the task force commissioned to look into Florida's controversial stand your ground law will make its decision based on facts, not emotions.

Carroll and 18 other task force members learned Wednesday that those facts—like many Stand Your Ground cases—are incredibly difficult to pin down.

A University of Florida professor presented a slew of data on crime and tourism since the 2005 passing of the Stand Your Ground law, but ultimately concluded that no definitive connections could be made at this time.

“The data the we collected in response to the task force request is insufficient to provide a conclusion on this issue,” said Professor Monique Haughton Worrell, of UF’s College of Law. “It’s a complex issue, requiring complex analysis.”

Worrell told task force members meeting in West Palm Beach that a more in-depth study would be needed before the university could determine a connection between Stand Your Ground and crime rates, gun ownership rates or tourism in Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott commissioned the task force in the wake of the February shooting death of Miami Gardens teenager Trayvon Martin, which thrust the state’s controversial gun laws into a national spotlight.

The 17-year-old was shot by a Sanford neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, who claims that he was acting in self-defense. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder several weeks after the shooting, after nationwide protests and the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Continue reading "Preliminary data on Stand Your Ground law remains murky" »

August 30, 2012

Purge-snagged non-citizen voter faces five years in prison

As the debate continues over whether or not to purge Florida's voting rolls of potential non-citizens before the November elections, at least one person will be going to jail for voting illegally in 2008.

Josef Sever, who was born in Austria, pleaded guilty Thursday to voting in the November 4, 2008 presidential election even though he is not a U.S. citizen, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He lives in Plantation.

Sever, who also received a concealed firearms license and bought nine guns under the pretense that he was U.S. citizen, faces up to five years in prison for the voting and gun-related charges.

According to court records, Sever's illegal voting was discovered during Gov. Rick Scott's controversial push to identify potential non-citizens on voting rolls using information from the state motor vehicle agency. 

Sever, 52, moved from Austria to Canada as a child, and became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1979. He came to the U.S., and registered to vote in 2008, claiming he was a U.S. citizen on his Broward County voter registration application. He then voted in the 2008 presidential election. Sever also bought several firearms in Hialeah, stating that he was a U.S. citizen. It's not clear if he registered with any particular party.

Continue reading "Purge-snagged non-citizen voter faces five years in prison" »

July 30, 2012

Gov. Scott sticks to his guns, fires back appeal to 'Docs-vs.-Glocks' ruling

Gov. Rick Scott is appealing yet another court ruling, and appears convinced that his interpretation of the Constitution is more valid than that of the federal judge who struck down the so-called “Docs-vs.-Glocks” law, which banned doctors from asking patients about gun ownership in most cases.

The 2011 law, sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, was pushed by the National Rifle Association and opposed by Florida doctors. The doctors challenged the law in court, and a federal judge in Miami ruled that barring doctors from asking patients about gun ownership violates their First Amendment freedom of speech rights.

Scott is now appealing that ruling, which pits the First Amendment against the Second Amendment.

Here’s the release from Scott’s office.

Tallahassee, Fla. – “The Department of Health today filed an appeal to the federal court decision blocking enforcement of the Firearm Owner’s Privacy Act.  This law was carefully crafted to respect the First Amendment while ensuring a patient’s constitutional right to own or possess a firearm without discrimination.  I signed this legislation into law because I believe it is constitutional and I will continue to defend it.”

It’s the latest in what has become a litigation-swamped administration for Scott. The state is also involved in lawsuits over voting changes, pension reform, drug testing for state workers and welfare recipients, prison privatization, the Affordable Care Act, etc.

Florida has come out on the losing end of many of those challenges, and Scott has been quick to appeal judge’s rulings each time.

A story in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Monday showed that Scott’s administration has racked up more than $880,000 in legal bills for the various challenges over the constitutionality of several laws passed in the last two years. 

@ToluseO