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The Great Gun Debate: What Do You Think?

By: James Buechele; News Service of Florida Email
By: James Buechele; News Service of Florida Email

Tallahassee, FL - Charlie Strickland and J.D. Johnson run Talon Training, a shooting academy out of Midway, Fla. They see 2013 as a year where gun control will be a hot topic.

"There is an obvious concern about more restrictive gun laws and when something like [the Connecticut shooting] happens, obviously it becomes a greater concern," said Strickland who also works with the Leon County Sheriff's Office.

"Making gun laws... ...is not going to stop evil things and evil people from doing what they do," said Johnson who also works at LCSO.

The two have trained many private citizens when it comes to being armed with hand guns and own many guns themselves.

Lawmakers like Florida Representative Alan Williams believe citizens have the right to defend themselves on their property but assault rifles and certain magazines might be best left off the streets.

"We don't need those types of weapons readily available in our society," said Williams. "What we have to do is we have to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep our community safe."

Williams says he believes the gun control debate will be a top issue in 2013.


News Service of Florida Release: So Far, new Gun Proposals Few in Florida

By Brandon Larrabee
The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, December 18, 2012..........The tragic mass killing at a Connecticut school last week has produced a stream of ideas on gun control and school safety at the national level -- but reaction in Florida has been muted, at least in the form of concrete legislation.

Gov. Rick Scott has called for school districts to review their safety procedures after the shooting, which left 20 students and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in addition to the shooter and his mother, who was killed at her home.

But no gun legislation has been introduced in either the Florida House or the Senate since the tragedy. Legislative Republicans, who have traditionally worked to expand gun rights, have largely steered clear of the issue. A spokeswoman for Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, responded vaguely to questions about whether the Senate was planning a legislative response.

"As a former school superintendent, Senator Gaetz supports Governor Scott's call for Florida's school districts to review emergency procedures and determine if there are ways to improve security in Florida schools and to communicate these actions with Florida's families," spokeswoman Katie Betta wrote in an email.

Democrats have also seemed hesitant, mindful that the GOP-dominated Legislature is unlikely to pass sweeping new laws to control firearms.

"You have to look at the recent history of the Legislature," said Rep. Mark Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat who heads up his caucus' policy efforts. "The Legislature is very, very pro-gun lobby."

Some lawmakers are still talking about the possibility of firearms legislation. A spokesman for House Democrats said members were discussing how to respond to the shooting.

And Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, said his office was researching potential changes, including whether to transfer responsibility for background checks for concealed weapons permits from the Department of Agriculture to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Ideas for making it easier to check an applicant's mental health history are also under consideration, Smith said.

"It's not just the guns," Smith said. "It's the guns in the hands of people with mental illness."

One Republican who spoke out on the issue of gun control Monday wound up trying to walk back statements he made seeming to suggest that guns should be allowed on school property.

"In our zealousness to protect people from harm we've created all these gun-free zones and what we've inadvertently done is we've made them a target," House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said Monday, according to the Associated Press. "A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped."

Baxley is telling constituents that he wasn't trying to float a legislative proposal, his office said Tuesday. He also issued a media statement attempting to blunt the remarks.

"Our focus should be on the victims and their loved ones," Baxley said. "Out of respect for them, we should not politicize a national tragedy. There will be plenty of time for debate in the near future."

Even some Democrats say the larger issues, such as whether to limit access to high-capacity ammunition clips that can hold dozens of rounds, could be better handled on the federal level, instead of taking a state-to-state approach that could make rules harder to enforce.

"You don't want a mish-mash of gun laws ... by which all you have to do is (buy) a tank of gas and you have a different law apply," said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith.

Pafford said the state should at least take a look at the resources it devotes to mental health, where Florida ranks as one of the lowest-spending states in the nation.

"If it's easier to actually fund mental health in this state, let's do that," he said.


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