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Orlando state Rep. Anna Eskamani triggered a Facebook backlash by supporting an assault weapons ban

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Joe Henderson: Backlash against Anna Eskamani only fuels her determination

They don’t call Florida the Gunshine State for nothing.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani must have known what was going to happen when she posted on Facebook in support of an assault weapons ban in Florida.

Opponents came after her, keyboards blazing. The backlash was extraordinary, even by the standards of these divisive times.

Vulgar doesn’t begin to capture it. It was more like spewing, spitting, unholy rage mixed with juvenile personal insults.

Scott Powers of Florida Politics detailed the venom and Eskamani’s reaction to it all in his story. Eskamani’s district in Orlando is the site of the Pulse nightclub massacre. As we have seen, she is not afraid to speak her mind to cyber bullies or anyone else.

On her Twitter page, she calls herself an “unafraid progressive.”

“I am reminded that for generations women who are bold and unapologetic are always facing a backlash. I always say that for every act of intimidation, our courage only rises,” she said.

We’re seeing the beginning of something Second Amendment supporters better think about.

All politics is cyclical, and each movement builds upon the one before.

While the gun lobby and its backers control the issue now, it might not always be that way. We’re seeing more outspoken liberals successfully running for office. They are beginning to match the intensity of those whose cold, dead fingers will have to be pried from their guns.

They’re not afraid to speak out in a manner that mimics the master bloviator himself, Donald Trump.

People tend to copy what works, and Eskamani also has been known to use some colorful words to make a point.

Florida has been under the Republican thumb in Tallahassee for about two decades. Even though Rick Scott was twice elected Governor about 1 percentage point, he and his backers took it as a mandate to maul the other 49.9 percent of people who didn’t vote for them.

That is particularly true with guns. They don’t call Florida the Gunshine State for nothing.

This all-out fight by gun supporters against any restriction is leading, I believe, to a consequence they probably don’t believe is possible. Framing every conversation as an assault on the Second Amendment is making people say: “Hey. Wait a minute.”

When the cybermob attacked Eskamani, it just made many of them look absurd. It also likely hardened Eskamani’s supporters and gave her a platform that could reach from Pensacola to Key West.

She could gain more support for this issue.

It works both ways though. If anti-gun forces demand civility, they should be prepared to give it. Society changes when strong points are made in the point of public opinion, not through middle-school taunts and insults.

Florida NRA lobbyist supreme Marion Hammer filed a lawsuit after receiving a deluge of emails, letter and phone calls filled with what was called “hate and vitriol” after the Parkland killings.

The suit claimed Hammer, 79, Hammer was the “victim of cyberstalking, harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intrusion upon seclusion under Florida statutory and common law.”

If it’s not right to attack Eskamani for her beliefs, the same is true for the other side. And I don’t agree with much of what Hammer advocates. There are just better ways to communicate that than with personal and disgusting attacks.

Usually, this is the point in a column when someone in my position decries the breakdown of civility. We’re way past that, though, at least for now.

All I could do was shake my head when reading the Facebook responses to a woman exercising her First Amendment rights as it pertained to the Second.

But that’s where we are now, and no one is backing down.

Written By

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.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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