Joe Henderson: Can we talk about gun control? Didn’t think so
A father embraced his daughter after being reunited outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Photo credit Saul Martinez.


We hear a lot of talk from NRA-backed lawmakers about protecting the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. As events in South Florida have shown though, they aren’t quite as bullish on gun control that might protect the rights of people to live.

Too harsh? Maybe.

But seriously, how should those politicians expect people to react? They have the power to change the law, but they don’t do it, won’t even seriously talk about it. Yes, many of them take a lot of money from the NRA, but there is another reason.

In 2014, Joe Wurzelbacher — you know him better as Joe The Plumber, the shill Sarah Palin used as an example of the common man — responded to a rampage that left six people dead in Oregon with these now-infamous words: “Your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights.”

That, folks, is the mindset that blocks any meaningful attempt even to have a serious conversation about guns.

The NRA has convinced too many of its members that any restriction is an attack on their right to be part of a well-regulated militia — sorry, I mean, own a weapon. They clap their hands and the lawmakers fall in line.

So many people have bought into that crap that even events like we saw at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School don’t penetrate deep enough to say, hey, maybe it’s not a good idea for an 18-year-old with multiple behavioral red flags to legally buy an AR-15 weapon.

Their response, instead, is that everyone ought to protect themselves by matching that firepower. That’s why we see continued pushes in the Florida Legislature to arm teachers and introduce more guns into schools, not less.

That’s crazy.

A big flaw in the NRA nonsense is the assumption anyone who can legally purchase a gun and take a class will be cool enough under stress to use it properly. Can they really tell the good guy from the bad when there is smoke, people screaming and the crack of a weapons discharge echoing through the halls?

I shudder to think how many more kids would have died Wednesday in the confusion if others started firing at anything that moved in the name of defense.

Fred Piccolo, communications director for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, challenged me Thursday after my column on the south Florida nightmare to come up with some ideas for gun control because he said I offered no proposals.

Fair enough.

Florida law prohibits the keeping of any database of individuals who own guns. Why? Privacy? Give me a break. The state keeps records of the houses we own and the cars we drive, but we can’t know if the guy next door has an arsenal in his garage? Change the law.

Florida doesn’t require background checks for private gun sales. Change the law. Period. If we find out someone violated that, both the buyer and seller go to jail and have all their guns confiscated. Permanently.

Florida doesn’t restrict magazine capacity. In mass killings like the one we just saw, that means a shooter can load up as many 30-round magazines as he wants. It takes about two minutes to empty that magazine before snapping in another in. Change the law to cut the capacity. I suggest no more than 10 because that would be sufficient in a self-defense situation.

Florida law allows Tallahassee to pre-empt local restrictions on guns. That’s ridiculous. Change the law. The concerns of a city like Tampa might not line up with those in the Panhandle.

I just named four common-sense changes that would not infringe on the constitutional rights of Joe The Plumber or anyone else. What it would do, though, is maybe pump the brakes just a bit on the madness.

It also might help us avoid more dead kids.

Can we talk?

Didn’t think so.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

One comment

  • Reid Friedson, PhD

    February 16, 2018 at 11:28 am

    There is a reason the Declaration of Independence placed “life” first.

    The Second Amendment calls for regulation.

    The Preamble to the Constitution was approved last and place d first demanding the protection of the people.

    Refresher on Florida gun laws:

    — no state license to purchase
    — no background check for private sales
    — no firearm registration (in fact, it’s a felony to create, maintain, or publish such a list)
    — no specific assault weapon law
    — no magazine capacity restriction


    Another great piece as usual from Joe Henderson.

Comments are closed.


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