Opinions Archives - Page 3 of 259 - Florida Politics

Troy Flanagan: Florida lawmakers must protect tourism by addressing illegal rentals

On behalf of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), I am honored to go before the Senate Community Affairs Committee tomorrow to discuss short-term rentals — an important topic of concern in recent years given the emergence of online rental platforms. While these platforms provide people with a new method to access and advertise short-term rentals, there have also been many unintended side effects.

Alarmingly, these platforms are being exploited by commercial operators who run illegal hotels without adhering to Florida’s commercial rental laws — putting legal hotels at an unfair competitive disadvantage, and tourists and residential neighborhoods at risk from a health and safety perspective. Countless Floridians have even felt the effects of this platform manipulation on their basic peace of mind — ask anyone who has found themselves living next door to something akin to a year-round spring break party house.

Unfortunately, solutions were met with contention last legislative session, despite voices from around the State speaking up and bringing attention to these illegal hotel loopholes. Prominently among these voices was AirbnbWATCHFlorida, comprised of Florida residents and commercial lodging businesses of all sizes. The coalition that is AirbnbWATCHFlorida was — and remains — focused on the need for solutions that protect Florida’s careful balance as a tourism leader and ideal place to call home. Since the last session adjourned without a remedy, we must swiftly restart this important discussion.

Florida is a mecca for tourism, continually inviting new and innovative industry endeavors. But with any new business development — like online short-term rental platforms — there comes a time when that change must be reviewed to ensure operations are occurring fairly and soundly, in order to protect consumers who choose to utilize that new business offering, as well as those who may be unintentionally impacted by it.

As such, AHLA believes Florida lawmakers should give thoughtful attention to this issue this legislative session and consider the following commonsense solutions to better rein in illegal commercial operators:

1) Adherence to Florida statutes that address public accommodations — Section 509 — with basic business registration, standard data transparency, and improved local government input;

2) Compliance with State and local tax obligations, including standard audit compliance, similar to every other Florida business; and

3) Requirements for the removal of noncompliant short-term rental listings from online platforms, and requirements to ensure commercial insurance is in place for commercial businesses.

Just as important as protecting its place as a leader in tourism, Florida also needs reasonable regulations like these to safeguard its residents and families. One’s home is a sacred place — it’s where you rest your head at night and put food on the table for your family — and it should be enjoyed without concerns of a constant revolving door of strangers at a neighboring illegal hotel.

Floridians and tourists should not have to worry about bad actors in the lodging industry. By updating policy to protect from illegal commercial operators that are taking advantage of online short-term rental platforms, Florida can remain both an ideal place to live and a leader in the tourism industry now, and in the future; and we are hopeful that lawmakers will again give serious consideration to this issue this session.


Troy Flanagan is the vice president for state and local affairs for the American Hotel & Lodging Association.


CRC member: Changing write-in law ‘right thing to do’

Although she is a Republican, Florida Constitution Revision Commission member Sherry Plymale explained in an opinion piece this week why she is supporting a write-in candidate proposal that was originally offered by a Democrat.

“Sometimes there are issues that shouldn’t be a matter of politics and should be addressed because it is the right and ethical thing to do,” Plymale wrote Thursday on the TCPalm website.

On Monday, Plymale agreed to sponsor a proposed constitutional amendment from Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, a Democrat, that would let all voters participate in primaries if the only general-election opposition comes from write-in candidates. Currently, the presence of write-in candidates in general elections closes primaries, shutting out many voters from deciding races. In closed primaries, only Republican voters can cast ballots in races involving Republican candidates, and only Democratic voters can cast ballots in races involving Democratic candidates.

“It’s important to note that a write-in candidate has never won any major election in Florida and they don’t pay filing fees or collect petitions when qualifying for office,” Plymale wrote. “This makes it all too easy for individuals to close primary elections by propping up write-in candidates to create an unfair political advantage.”

While noting she and Aronberg have different political backgrounds, she said they both agreed the “write-in loophole has been allowed to exist for too long” and closing it “is the right thing to do for Florida voters.” Plymale’s amendment (P11) will be considered by the Constitution Revision Commission’s committees.

It must gain at least 22 votes from the full commission before it can advance to next year’s general-election ballot, where it must win at least 60 percent support to be enacted.

Blake Dowling: Equifax – the mother of all breaches

Last month, we saw a monster of a breach, from an entity supposedly on the extremely protected side of the conversation: Equifax.

You may think just because you never gave them your information that they don’t have it.

Not so fast, says Lee Corso.

Equifax has your info from banks, creditors, and public records, it is their job to have your info and not lose it, but that’s not important right now (a little Airplane movie humor for you).

The CEO of the firm resigned, the breach is being called massive, almost 140 million citizens of the world affected. Mainly in Canada, the U.S. and England. And like a relative who knits, the gifts just keep coming.

After the breach, Equifax provided a fraud-checking website, which also turned out to be vulnerable to hacking.

It’s like the Airplane movie of breaches, it just keeps going.

So what happened? Let’s dive in so you can try to prevent this from happening to your office, campaign, constituents, clients, etc.

According to reports (by ZDNet, and others) notice was sent to Equifax from The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), an organization within the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD). It was ignored.

The notice was about applying a patch, and for all intents and purposes, they failed to do so. Fast forward to July, when suspicious activities were noticed but, too late.

Security patches for websites, software and operating systems are created for a reason. Embrace them. In the short-term, be on the lookout.

There is only one official site by Equifax that you can go to officially check to see if your data was compromised: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

If someone calls claiming to be from Equifax, ignore them, hang up, and report the phone number to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the Attorney General’s Office. If you receive a link claiming to be from Equifax, delete it.

Data theft rings are going crazy right now harvesting your info because people panicked and are trying to do the right thing. However, by panicking, they are giving away their sensitive info to try to see if their info has been compromised. It’s like a Wes Anderson film, irony, comedy everywhere.

Don’t panic, check the official site and consider freezing your credit. Equifax will do it for free until the end of November.

Also, if you have been breached, trash all your existing passwords, and start over.

Also, monitor your financial situation carefully and look out for any financial hanky panky.

We hear about breaches all the time, but this one was different. It was big; really big.

Big like the first time you ordered Super-Size fries from McDonalds big.

Who needs an entire sack full of fries, anyway?

Check yourself online and be careful out there.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Ted Deutch: Time to break NRA stranglehold on Congress

Gathering on the House Floor to mark gun violence tragedies has become a common ritual. In the 477 days between the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 dead and the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday that left 58 dead and over 500 injured, there were 521 mass shootings in America.

So when, again and again and again, I bow my head and choke back tears, I can’t help but feel growing anger knowing that moments of silence are the beginning and end of the Congressional response to thousands of Americans being gunned down in the streets.

Offering “thoughts and prayers” without any substantive policy debate about how to reduce gun violence is part of a plan designed and implemented by the N.R.A. and the gun makers that fund it. The gun industry controls the Republican agenda on guns. It’s true in Washington and it’s true in Tallahassee where some of the most dangerous laws are rammed through.

It wasn’t always this way. It has been nearly thirty years since moderate Republicans joined most Democrats to pass the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. Even President Ronald Reagan, an N.R.A. member, ultimately supported the bill after leaving the White House. Since that time the N.R.A. has tightened its grip on the Republican Party.

Today’s N.R.A. is dominated by gun corporations, not its members, and it animates only the most extreme voices and policies. Their devotion to wealthy gun company executives leaves them with no reservations about spreading lies and promoting fear that gun safety advocates want to take away their guns.

This week’s tragedy highlighted the Republican go-to playbook on gun violence. After thoughts and prayers for the victims, GOP lawmakers first claimed that it is too soon to discuss solutions and later claimed nothing can be done to save lives.

Two N.R.A. A+ rated senators executed their roles perfectly. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) blamed so-called sanctuary cities in an attempt to scapegoat immigrants for a crime committed by a native-born American citizen.

Another GOP Senator, John Thune of South Dakota lamented that it is “hard to prevent anything.” He suggested that it would be the responsibility of victims to protect themselves and “get small.”

Did these Senators watch the video of the shooting? Did they hear the nine rounds per second raining down from the sky? “Get small” is not a solution. It’s cruel. His remarks make clear that the moral courage of gun industry-backed Republicans in Congress couldn’t get any smaller.

GOP obstruction is often paired with N.R.A. lies about the effectiveness of stronger gun laws. In fact, we can do something to make our communities safer. Other countries have done it. In Australia, a country with its own proud gun culture, a 1996 mass shooting inspired its legislature to get to work. They brokered compromises, they strengthened their laws, and they have successfully reduced gun violence (1.4 homicides per million people compared to 29.7 in the U.S.).

Congress could pass common-sense gun safety laws that would save lives and make our streets safer: reinstate the assault weapons ban, prevent modifications that enable simulated automatic fire, ban high capacity magazines, prohibit sales to known terrorists, and require universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those with mental illness.

Unfortunately, our urgent priority must be to block the current dangerous Ryan/McConnell/N.R.A. gun agenda. Grim priorities in Washington like legalizing over-the-counter sales of silencers and armor-piercing bullets and forcing the recognition of out-of-state concealed carry permits must be stopped. In Tallahassee, bills allowing guns on our college campuses and open carry in our communities must also be stopped. Every one of these efforts, in Washington and Tallahassee, puts more people at risk.

Next, we must engage in a meaningful debate about any steps we can take to reduce gun violence. So far, Republicans have refused offers even to talk with Democrats. They continue their strategy of silence with the hope that people will stop caring about preventing gun deaths. We won’t.

We’ve already wasted too much time while innocent Americans have paid the price with their lives. It’s time to start a real conversation and break the stranglehold of the N.R.A. Someday soon, the tears and shouting of victims and their families will ring louder in the ears of Congressional and Tallahassee Republicans than the N.R.A.’s talking points.

[Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.]


Congressman Ted Deutch represents Florida’s 22nd district, home to communities in southern Palm Beach County and Broward County.

Joe Henderson: Politicians shouldn’t politicize tragedy? Oh please

Don’t politicize tragedy. That’s on page 1 in the standard response manual for how gun rights supporters respond to a mass murder like the one Sunday morning in Las Vegas.

That’s where U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell turned when reporters asked if he might consider tougher controls on weapons now that 59 more people were dead.

Look, the investigation has not even been completed, and I think it’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions, if there are any,” McConnell said.

Key words there: “if there are any.”

So, um … senator? When, exactly, would be it not be “premature” to discuss this on the Senate floor?

Oh, piffle. We already know how this will go. McConnell will use the full force of his role as Majority Leader to make sure that no tougher laws get public airing, let alone passage.

If that’s not politicizing a tragedy, I’m not sure what is. That’s making decisions by indecision.

Politicians like McConnell are banking on the public’s increasing numbness to these tragedies, and they generally have been right. If nothing changed after the Sandy Hook massacre of school children, why would we think anything will happen now?

Think it through. McConnell is one of the most powerful politicians in the country. He makes his living in politics. It’s his job to find political solutions to complex problems.

His words suggest he already has done that, using his political might to effectively stop any real momentum on gun control before it gets a chance to start. To say politics shouldn’t be part of the conversation now is disingenuous. These things are always totally political.

After the murders last year at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Republicans almost trampled each other trying to inject politics into a tragedy. That’s because the guy who pulled the trigger, Omar Mateen, was a convert to radical Islam. The Washington Post broke it down: 80 Republican lawmakers invoked some variation of “radical Islam.”

Sen. Ted Cruz jumped in with a swipe at “vicious Islamist theology.” Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, chimed in with, “I believe this is truly a world war: radical Islam versus mankind.”

The difference now?

That’s easy to see. The Las Vegas killer might have come unhinged by some secret demon that led him to commit an unspeakable crime with an astonishingly large arsenal, but he wasn’t a Muslim and so we shouldn’t politicize it.

“There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

When, exactly, is the proper time and place for that political debate?

Well, it wasn’t after 12 people died and 70 were hurt inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. – at least in the opinion of gun rights advocate Dudley Brown.

He was quoted in the New York Daily News saying the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was “using this tragedy and walking all over graves to get to the microphone.”

And on Fox News, contributor Mercedes Colwin blasted any thought to have that national conversation about tougher controls following the Sandy Hook massacre, before adding, “make no mistake about it, we have to do everything in our power to prevent a tragedy like this one from occurring again.”

Well, make no mistake, it occurred again.

And again.

And again.

And it will occur again, even as the spineless people who could help look the other way and offer only thoughts and prayers instead of passing commonsense laws. They hope this will all go away.

How’s that working out so far?

We elect these people for times like this, because politicizing tragedy might the only way to stop the next one.

Darryl Paulson: The end of gerrymandering?

The term gerrymandering was coined over 200 years ago. On March 26, 1812, the Boston Gazette first used the term in describing the redrawing of a Massachusetts state senate district. Gov. Elbridge Gerry, a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, said the district resembled a salamander. Gerry’s name was linked to the last part of salamander, and the term gerrymandering was born.

Gerry and his party lost the House and governorship to the Federalists, but the Democratic-Republicans won the gerrymandered state senate district. Gerrymanders have been part of the political process ever since then.

The federal courts have refused to interfere with the drawing of political districts lines, arguing this was a “political question” best left to the legislature and not the courts.

The only exception made by the courts relates to “racial gerrymandering,” which the courts have found to violate the “equal protection” clause of the constitution. Partisan gerrymanders have essentially remained outside of the court’s jurisdiction.

Increasingly, it is getting difficult to tell what may be a racial as opposed to partisan gerrymander. When better than 90 percent of black voters vote Democrat, how do you determine if the gerrymander was done for racial or partisan reasons? Also, at one point, the courts were requiring the states to create as many majority-minority districts as possible in order to increase minority representation. Now, the courts are urging states to reduce the percentage of minority voters in a district. Few areas have had as much inconsistency from the courts as reapportionment and gerrymandering.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has not intervened in partisan gerrymanders, the court came close in 2004 when they split 4-4 in a Pennsylvania partisan gerrymandering case. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted to uphold the gerrymander, said he “would not foreclose” the possibility of relief “if some limited and precise rationale were found to correct an established violation of the Constitution in some redistricting cases.”

A partisan gerrymandering case in Wisconsin is now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is the “efficiency gap,” a tool developed by a law professor and political scientist which purports to measure excessive partisan gerrymanders.

In 2010, after 40 years of Democratic dominance, Republicans gained control of the legislature and governor’s office. They redrew the legislative district lines so that 49 percent of the voters elected Republicans to 60 of the 99 Assembly seats.

On the national level, even though Republicans won less than half the House votes, they won 241 of the 435 House seats. The Brennan Center for Justice found that Republicans have a “durable majority” of 16-17 seats in the House, mostly in seven states where Republicans drew the district lines.

Courts have already struck down lines in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Texas due to illegal gerrymandering. The Wisconsin gerrymander has been described as “the largest partisan asymmetry on record.”

With digital technology, it is easier to carve out partisan districts with surgical precision. As Sam Wang and Brian Remlinger of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project note, “Thanks to technology and political polarization, the effects of partisan gerrymandering since 2012 have been more pronounced than at any point in the previous 50 years.”

Does the Court now have the tools to ascertain a party gerrymander that Justice Kennedy said was needed to outlaw partisan gerrymandering? They better have found a precise tool since, if the court rules against the Wisconsin gerrymander, they will also strike down similar gerrymanders in one-third of the 50 states.

As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his remarks on the Wisconsin case Oct. 3, the courts “authority and legitimacy” would be hurt if it struck down legislative districts in so many states. “That is going to cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of this court in the eyes of the country.”

Republicans argue that the Wisconsin map reflects the fact that Democrats have packed themselves into cities, while Republicans are better distributed across the state.

Judge Kenneth Ripple, one of the two district court judges who struck down the Wisconsin gerrymander, agrees that “the high concentration of Democratic voters in urban centers like Milwaukee and Madison, affords the Republican Party a natural, but modest advantage in the districting process.”

But, noted Ripple, partisan gerrymandering amplified that advantage.

Will that be enough for the court to throw out legislative boundaries in one-third of the states? We will know when the court hands down its decision in a few months.


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Joe Henderson: HD 58 campaign takes negative turn

There is a game plan, oft-repeated in politics, that says going negative beats a reasoned argument almost every time. We are seeing that play out again in the HD 58 campaign for the Republican nomination, where mailboxes are being filled with fliers calling Yvonne Fry a closet liberal in Republican clothes.

The primary election to succeed former state Rep. Dan Raulerson is Oct. 10, although early voting has begun. Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons, supports Fry and has donated to her campaign. The primary winner will be favored in December’s general election.

Raulerson had said he would remain neutral, but wryly noted he made that statement when he was still a member of the House.

“I’m a private citizen now,” he said.

The attacks don’t have to be accurate; they just to be attacks, and that appears to be the script here.

Take this for instance: Although she has never been elected to public office, Fry is still mocked in the mailers as a “political insider” because she served on many boards and civic groups in the Plant City area and racked up multiple endorsements. She also is a small business owner, but targeted on that by leaked smears that don’t pass the smell test.

Because she supported a plan that would have put a transportation referendum on the ballot, she is said to be pushing for the largest tax increase in Hillsborough County history. Except, well, that referendum plan never made it to the ballot, and it would be up to the voters anyway.

“I never imagined it would be like this, no,” she told me during a chat last week. “I feel like they’re in a place of desperation. I have heard from so many people who are disgusted by what they are doing.”

The “they” Fry refers to apparently are supporters of her opponent, Lawrence McClure. One mailer says Fry has “joined the ranks of Obama, Clinton and Pelosi in declaring war on the Second Amendment.”


One mailer was self-financed by Doug Guetzloe, an Orlando-based political consultant and anti-tax crusader. He told William March of the Tampa Bay Times that “I’m a good Republican.

Fry says she has been meeting with groups and knocking on doors throughout the district, which covers Plant City and runs into Temple Terrace and the University of South Florida area.

She called the attacks “insulting.”

“I didn’t expect this,” she said. “I met McClure before the race and he assured me he would not go negative.”

The mailers have not come directly from McClure.

The mailers could be a major factor because turnouts traditionally are small in these types of elections. A few votes either way could swing this. While Fry is popular and well-known in Plant City, it’s a bit of a mystery how the USF and Temple Terrace area sees her.

I guess we’ll find out.

“I’m not deterred by this,” Fry said. “I’m not discouraged. I’m resolved.”

Drew Breakspear: Don’t pay for the promise of a loan!

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, beware of scammers perpetrating fraud. Advertisements that guarantee a loan for an advanced fee can be tempting, and the websites associated with these offers may even look legitimate, but don’t be fooled. It is probably a scam. In Florida, it is illegal for a loan broker to charge any fees in advance of a loan closing.

Usually, companies and individuals involved in this type of scam are not licensed to do financial business, but will try hard to appear legitimate to trick consumers. Scammers may present fake application documents, and may even falsify addresses or use a name that is similar to the name of a legitimate company.

In advance fee scams, scammers may tell you that you qualify for a loan, but you must first pay a fee, “deposit” or “insurance” in order to process the application. You will typically be directed by the scammer to pay the advance fee using a reloadable debit card or wire transfer. Once the fee is paid, the scammer walks away with your money and leaves you without a loan.

Please keep these tips in mind when shopping for a loan:

– Verify the license. You can verify the license of financial services businesses and individuals with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) online, or by calling (850) 487-9687.

– Get your agreement in writing. Be sure to get everything in writing, including any fees being charged. You may be asked to pay processing or application fees, but these will be assessed at closing.

– Ask questions. Be sure to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand.

– Remain vigilant. Be cautious of phrases like, “No Credit Check,” or “Guaranteed Loans.” No loan is ever guaranteed. Be wary of a fee assessed prior to closing. Under Florida law, there is no legitimate fee for the promise of a loan.

Legitimate loan products do not require money up front. If you’re a victim of a financial scam, you should report your experience. File a complaint with the OFR online, www.flofr.com, or call (850) 487-9687.

The OFR is a valuable resource for consumers, offering an online Consumer Knowledge Center, where Floridians can learn more about a variety of financial literacy topics, including how to spot potential scams.


Drew Breakspear is commissioner of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation.


Ted Deutch, Liza McClenaghan: Voters deserve fair maps; time to end gerrymandering

“The fact is, gerrymandering has become a national scandal.”

That was true when President Ronald Reagan said it in a 1987 speech to the Republican Governors Club.

And now, 30 years later, the electoral map drawing process in America is even more shameful as craven political operatives use computers to generate partisan political results.

Today’s electoral mapmaking tactics have denied voters competitive elections and produced safe seats and extreme candidates and office holders who have refused to compromise. Gerrymandering continues to foster a paralyzed and dysfunctional Congress that can’t tackle the big problems facing America.

This morning, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case, Gill v. Whitford, to determine whether hyperpartisan gerrymandering by the Wisconsin legislature violated the U.S. Constitution.

Gerrymandering is the practice of politicians drawing their own district lines to enable an easier re-election. The Court will be weighing whether those who drew the maps in Wisconsin baked such an extreme partisan advantage that voters’ preferences wouldn’t matter. This is a blatant conflict of interest that must end.

Gerrymandering undermines the American values of democracy; of government by the people, not the politicians. High-tech gerrymandering enables partisan politicians to rig the process by cherry-picking their voters. The modern tactics are so advanced that elections are often decided behind closed doors by sitting elected officials. In this case, the Supreme Court must say no to gerrymandering so that voters can choose their elected officials, instead of the other way around.

Gill v. Whitford could have a significant impact in Florida. In spite of the fact that Florida is a “purple state” — with narrow advantages in both registered party affiliation and presidential outcomes in recent elections — U.S. House races do not reflect that competitiveness. For instance, last year only 2 out of 27 seats were decided by less than 10 percentage points.

In our state, residents have been demanding fairness in the redistricting process for years. In 2010, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved constitutional amendments to reduce partisan advantages in the redistricting process and strengthen the connection between voters and their representatives. The amendments laid out principles that districts in Florida must be compact and contiguous, and they cannot be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party.

Unfortunately, even after Floridians spoke out loudly, the state Legislature continued to draw partisan maps that were rejected by the courts. Floridians must continue to hold their legislators accountable for delivering district maps without the need for court orders.

Gerrymandering often leads to partisan gridlock by drawing artificially uncompetitive districts that empower the fringes of both parties. Doing so reduces the incentive to build consensus among members of opposing parties. As a result, government often cannot develop comprehensive solutions to help improve the lives of everyday Floridians.

Toward the end of President Reagan’s 1987 speech, he stated: “And that’s all we’re asking for: an end to the antidemocratic and un-American practice of gerrymandering …” We hope President Reagan’s words will ring loudly and clearly in the Court. The Supreme Court has the opportunity to end this national scandal once and for all.


Congressman Ted Deutch signed an amicus brief with a bipartisan group of 34 Republican and Democratic Members of Congress urging the Supreme Court to end hyperpartisan gerrymandering in the Gill v. Whitford case.

Liza McClenaghan is the board chair of Common Cause Florida, which continues to fight for redistricting reform.

Joe Henderson: Vegas killer ‘just a guy’ except he wasn’t

There was no reason to know the name Stephen Paddock before we awoke to the news Monday morning that he had gone on a murderous rampage. The man we’ll now remember as the Las Vegas killer had apparently committed nothing worse than a minor traffic violation.

He owned guns but didn’t appear to be overly fascinated with them. He didn’t have military training. If he was mentally ill – and, really, how could he not be — apparently it didn’t show. There didn’t seem to be any reason to put him on a watch list. He was, his brother Eric Paddock told reporters, “just a guy.”

Except, he wasn’t.

We’ll know more by the time investigators comb through every inch of his life in the coming days and weeks.

Here’s what we do know, though. If Stephen Paddock, who used to live in Melbourne before moving to Las Vegas, had tried to buy a gun last week, he likely would have passed a background check and his purchase would have been legal.

The real question is how he acquired the arsenal, including what sounded like a machine gun, he used to murder at least 58 people outside a Las Vegas concert and injure more than 500 others. I’m willing to bet he didn’t get those at a mom ‘n pop gun store. If they were legally purchased though, then the system needs to be seriously re-examined

There has been the suggestion that he had heavy gambling debts and that might have set him off, but lots of people do. Even if it’s true I can’t imagine it will be much use in future mass-murder investigations.

Future mass murders?

It’s clear by now that a motivated killer is almost impossible to stop. The only answer is to keep guns out of their hands, and there aren’t enough leaders with the will to try and do that.

I think we could at least make a dent in the problem, but it would require devoting twenty, forty or maybe a thousand times more resources at shutting down the illegal gun pipeline.

There are many ways for someone with criminal intent to illegally purchase a gun. They could have a friend buy it for them. So-called street dealers can acquire weapons from a licensed dealer, then sell them on the black market in cash transactions with no questions asked.

It’s inevitable that a horror like the one in Vegas will bring loud cries for stricter gun control laws. It’s also inevitable that the National Rifle Association will swat that that challenge like it has all the others, including the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But why? Proponents argue that the vast majority of gun-related crimes are estimated to be committed by people who acquired the weapon illegally. If the percentage of crimes committed by legal gun owners is low, why not enlist them and the NRA into a serious crackdown on underground sales?

Well, logical as that might seem, this is the mindset it would be up against.

In an op-ed earlier this year for The Hill, Chris W. Cox, the executive director for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action declared, “there has not been a demonstrated correlation between mental illness and violence.”


There has, however, been a demonstrated correlation between a high-velocity bullet entering a human body and a shortened life expectancy for that person. Maybe this time leaders will offer more than shallow condolences.

This was “just a guy” who did this – except this guy had an armory and no one knew about it. None of the normal warning systems in place likely would have stopped this.

If this doesn’t show that it’s just too damn easy to acquire instruments of death, I don’t know what will.

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