Florida Passes Minimal Gun-Safety Measures, but Scott's Gun Record Still Sucks

Florida Gov. Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Rick Scott Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
click to enlarge Florida Gov. Rick Scott - PHOTO BY MICHELE EVE SANDBERG
Florida Gov. Rick Scott
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
Update 3/9: Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law today.

In National Rifle Association-dominated Florida, the extremely modest gun-control measures Florida's legislators just passed apparently count as revolutionary. The state Legislature recently voted to send a bill to Gov. Rick Scott's desk that raises the minimum gun-buying age from 18 to 21 and institutes a three-day waiting period for gun purchases. The bill, HB 7026, also allocates more than $100 million in new mental-health funding for Florida schools. These change are good, no doubt, and ones the overwhelming majority of Florida's Democrats and Republicans supported.
But they are also little more than Band-Aids on the state's dueling gun-violence and mental-health-funding woes, and some of the other provisions — such as arming "non-teaching" school employees such as librarians and lunch aides — might wind up hurting more than they help. The ordeal has also somehow rehabilitated the image of Scott, a cruel and callous man who in a few short weeks made everyone forget he fought gun-control measures at nearly every turn during his two terms running the "Gunshine State" — including after the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016 and the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooting in 2017.

Both the local and national media have heaped shovelfuls of praise on Scott after Parkland, expressing awe that Scott would risk the wrath of Florida's steel-willed NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer and push for some basic gun-safety regulations. Scott might deserve some praise, if not for the fact he's clearly attempting to save face in the leadup to a contentious 2018 run U.S. Senate against Democrat and human bank teller's note Bill Nelson. In what will almost certainly be a Democratic wave election fueled by anti-Trump hatred, Scott simply couldn't afford a round of press in 2018 labeling him a friend of school shooters and child killers.

But that's what he is, and it would behoove both the media and Florida voters to keep that in mind. Scott's steadfast refusal to even consider basic gun regulations such as three-day waiting periods, which can help curb domestic violence and other crimes of passion, helped Florida remain a place where disturbed individuals such as Omar Mateen and Nikolas Cruz can buy assault rifles legally and blow holes in unsuspecting clubgoers, LGBTQ people, travelers, or students at a moment's notice.

Two days after the Stoneman Douglas shooting, Orlando Weekly published a depressing timeline of Scott's record on gun violence. Among other items, in 2011 he signed a bill prohibiting local municipalities from enacting their own gun laws; signed the controversial "Docs vs. Glocks" bill the same year that prevented doctors from talking about gun violence with patients (the bill was later overturned); came out against universal background checks in 2013; repeatedly cut the cost of concealed-carry permits; signed a bill letting people carry concealed weapons without permits during emergency evacuations; and signed yet another bill making it easier for people to shoot others and then claim they were "standing their ground."

The Florida Bulldog also reported that Scott even violated U.S. sanctions against Russia in order to offer tax breaks to the Russian manufacturer of the Kalashnikov (AK-47) assault rifle. Scott wanted to bring a Kalashnikov factory to South Florida.

Plus, Scott has railed against increasing access to mental-health care during his time in office. He infamously refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and then became one of America's loudest voices fighting to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Despite all of these things, a recent Quinnipiac poll showed Scott's approval rating hit an all-time high after the Stoneman Douglas tragedy.
And though it restricts gun laws in some cases, HB 7026 loosens it in others. Under the bill, "non-teaching" school employees can apply to carry guns near children — despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Times today released a long list of disciplinary complaints showing that some of these very same school employees have a habit of threatening to harm children.

Scott has not yet said whether he'll sign the bill into law. He has said in the past he's opposed to arming school personnel but says he'll consult with families of Stoneman Douglas victims before making a decision.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.