Anderson Cooper talks about Pam Bondi interview during Orlando benefit

Anderson Cooper said he had every right to ask Attorney General Pam Bondi about her stance on gay marriage during an Orlando interview earlier this month.

“I wasn’t asking her about things she had done a year before out of the blue,” said Cooper of his now infamous interview with Bondi in the days following the mass shooting at an Orlando night club. “It was something she said Sunday and something she said that day on another network. I thought I was in my rights to do that, and clearly she wasn’t happy with how it all ended up.”

Earlier this month, Cooper called out Bondi for her office’s decision to defend the state’s ban on same sex marriage. In the wake of the shooting, which happened at a gay nightclub, Bondi said anyone who does harm to the LGBTQ community will be “gone after” to the fullest extent of the law.

But Cooper — who was in Orlando with his friend and Bravo host Andy Cohen on Thursday for a benefit to support victims of the shooting — said he had heard from many people in the gay community that they resented her decision to defend the ban.

Cooper, who publicly came out as gay in 2012, said people he was talking to were pointing out Bondi’s statements following the shooting were “antithetical to things that she said previously.”

“I think anyone who has run for office, is holding office deserves respect. They’re dedicating their time and their service and all of that,” he told Cohen. “But I also think its my job to confront people with their statements that they made that day and the day before and how that jives with things they’ve said in the past.”

Cooper and Cohen brought their popular AC2 show to Orlando Thursday to benefit the OneOrlando Fund. According to the Dr. Phillips Center, 100 percent of the proceeds went to the fund.

‘Guacamole-thick’ algae causes crisis on Florida coastline

A smelly, “guacamole-thick” muck is fouling a stretch of beaches promoted as Florida’s “Treasure Coast,” where lawmakers and residents blame the federal government, saying the algae crisis is fueled by freshwater flows controlled by Army officials to protect an erosion-prone dike.

The blue-green algae is the latest contaminant featured in yearslong arguments over water flowing from Lake Okeechobee, which is critical to South Florida’s water supply and flood control systems.

At Central Marine boat docks in Stuart, pea-green and brown algae coated the water Thursday and smelled strongly like cow manure. Blooms that started last week in the St. Lucie River continue to spread, threatening Atlantic beaches expecting crowds of families for the holiday weekend.

Sarah Chaney, a receptionist at Central Marine, said boaters and fisherman are cancelling reservations after seeing reports of the algae, which she called “horrible and disgusting.”

“I would describe them as guacamole-thick. And it stinks,” said Gabriella Ferrero, spokeswoman for Martin County.

Florida’s U.S. senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson, have joined Martin County commissioners in calling for the Army Corps of Engineers to stop the flow of water between the river and Lake Okeechobee.

Residents and business owners blame the algae on pollutants streaming from the lake.

In a news release Thursday afternoon, the Corps said it would begin reducing the flow from the lake Friday, targeting the Caloosahatchee Estuary and the St. Lucie Estuary.

After touring the St. Lucie River as it passes through downtown Stuart, Nelson said the problems can be traced to Florida’s history of diverting water to the ocean.

“We need to repair 75 years of diking and draining, but that takes time,” he said. He called on Florida’s Legislature to spend money approved by state voters for environmental projects such as purchasing land around Lake Okeechobee for water storage instead of diverting the funds to pay for administrative costs. Rubio is scheduled to visit the area Friday.

When Gov. Rick Scott declared a state emergency for the area Wednesday, he blamed the federal government for neglecting repairs to the lake’s aging dike that’s considered one of the country’s most at-risk for imminent failure.

Some residents blamed Scott instead on Thursday. He hasn’t done enough to curb pollution from farms north of the lake or purchase land farther south where lake waters could be stored and cleaned, said Irene Gomes, owner of the Driftwood Motel in Jensen Beach.

The algae has rapidly grown from a beach nuisance to a health concern, as one customer made plans to leave early if the algae triggered breathing issues, said Gomes, whose family has owned the motel’s turquoise-colored cabins since 1958.

“At one point, I could say to my customers, ‘Come down, it’s not at all the beaches,’ because it wasn’t toxic. Now we’re talking about health issues,” Gomes said.

Chaney, the Central Marine receptionist, said Scott should visit the area, even if he gets criticized.

“He needs to come see it himself and stop being a coward,” she said.

The governor’s press office declined further comment Thursday, pointing to his emergency declaration Wednesday.

Lake Okeechobee is the largest in Florida and the second largest body of freshwater in the contiguous United States. Flooding there after a major hurricane in 1928 killed at least 2,500 people in surrounding communities of mostly poor, black farmworkers. It inspired the storm central to Zora Neale Hurston‘s novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

To reduce the risk of a breach in the dike built after that hurricane, the Corps of Engineers tries to keep lake water levels between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet above sea level. Shoring up the dike will take years. Meanwhile, freshwater is released east and west of the lake into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

State water managers have said local stormwater runoff and septic tanks also fuel algae blooms. They’re working to direct more water south of Lake Okeechobee into the parched Everglades, but federal regulations, conservation mandates and stalled restoration projects complicate those efforts.

In neighboring St. Lucie County, home to the troubled Indian River Lagoon, officials have prohibited homeowners from using fertilizer during the summer and begun working with the state to test waterways for pollution that might be linked to septic tanks.

“A lot of people want to blame Lake Okeechobee, it’s an easy target, but there are a lot of factors that contribute to the health of the lagoon,” said St. Lucie County spokesman Erick Gill.

Murky waters on southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast also are blamed on the lake’s discharges. Fort Myers-area lawmakers said Thursday that Scott should extend the state of emergency to Lee County because of water issues in the Caloosahatchee River.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Abortion, budget, tax cuts among new Florida laws

Florida legislators passed 279 bills during this year’s session three months ago, and 162 of them take effect on Friday with the start of the state’s fiscal year, affecting school choice, abortion, tax cuts and many more aspects of life in the Sunshine State.

Here’s a roundup of some of the measures taking effect:

BUDGET: The $82.3 billion budget was passed by a combined vote of 159-1. It includes more than $700 million for school construction and $203.8 million for Everglades restoration.

TAX CUTS: Two will benefit most Floridians. Property taxes should drop along with a reduction in local millage rates, and a three-day sales tax holiday Aug. 5-7 should help back-to-school shoppers. Other highlights include a permanent sales tax exemption for manufacturing equipment and machinery, beverage tax-reductions on pear cider, and a drop in the tax rate on aviation fuel.

ABORTION: A law redefining when abortions can be performed and requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges or can transfer patients with nearby hospitals may be blocked after Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that a related Texas law is unconstitutional. A federal judge is considering arguments against the law, which also eliminates funding to clinic affiliates such as Planned Parenthood.

BULLYING: School districts must review their anti-bullying and harassment policies every three years, and integrate rules on dating violence and abuse into discipline policies.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: Persons convicted of aggravated assault or attempted aggravated assault are no longer subject to “10-20-Life” mandatory-minimum sentences.

DIGITAL ASSETS: Guardians or trustees of estates gain legal authority to manage digital assets and electronic communications as they would tangible assets and financial accounts. Digital companies are provided legal authority to interact with these representatives, revealing such things as passwords to accounts.

FESTIVALS: Any food contests or cook-offs lasting no more than three days and hosted by a school, church, religious organization or nonprofit will not be defined as “public food service establishments.” That means they don’t have to pay licensing fees or are subject to an inspection by the Division of Hotels and Restaurants.

JURY DUTY: Individuals permanently incapable of caring for themselves may request a permanent exemption from jury duty by submitting a written statement from a doctor verifying the disability.

MARRIAGE: Clergy with religious objections don’t have to marry same-sex couples.

NEEDLE EXCHANGE: The Miami-Dade Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA) provides for the University of Miami and affiliates to establish a pilot needle exchange program to prevent the spread of blood-borne diseases such as HIV, AIDS, or viral hepatitis in the county, which has the nation’s highest rate of new HIV cases.

OUTDOORS: Fines for illegally killing, taking or selling game or fur-bearing animals while committing burglary or trespass increase from $250 to $500. It becomes a third-degree felony to knowingly possess marine turtles or their eggs or nests.

PUBLIC RECORDS: Recorded matches regulated by the Florida Boxing Commission may be kept private until they are aired in an exemption requested by Ultimate Fighting Championship for its “Ultimate Fighter” reality show when it is taped in South Florida.

RAPE KITS: Law enforcement agencies must submit rape kits within 30 days of the start of their investigations to a state crime lab, which must test them within 120 days.

SAFETY: Elevators installed in private residences must have clearing requirements and be equipped with a sensor device that prevents their operation if certain objects are detected.

SCHOOL CHOICE: Children can transfer to any state school with available space, and student athletes are immediately eligible to play if they haven’t joined practices in the same sport at their previous school. Children of military parents or those who transfer due to economic or legal reasons are immediately eligible in season if they haven’t been suspended or expelled from their prior school.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Federal action sought for Florida coastline tainted by algae

Officials want federal action along a stretch of Florida’s Atlantic coast where the governor has declared a state of emergency over algae blooms.

The blue-green algae is the latest contaminant in yearslong arguments over water flowing from Lake Okeechobee, which is critical to South Florida’s water supply and flood control systems.

The Martin County Commission is inviting the president to view deteriorating water conditions that local officials blame on freshwater being released from the lake, according to a statement released Wednesday.

“It’s gagging,” Commissioner Sarah Heard told The Palm Beach Post. “It’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever smelled.”

Beaches have been closed along the Treasure Coast shoreline, the St. Lucie River and other bodies of water in the county.

“I had to call a couple customers and say, ‘You can’t go to the beach,'” said Irene Gomes, owner of the Driftwood Motel in Jensen Beach.

Gov. Rick Scott has directed state and local authorities to fast-track water storage projects that could help reduce the algae’s spread along the St. Lucie River and other waterways in Martin and St. Lucie counties. Both of Florida’s senators plan to visit the area this week.

Critics blame pollutants from Lake Okeechobee, but local stormwater runoff and septic tanks also fuel algae blooms, as has happened in past years when there were no releases, according to a statement from the South Florida Water Management District.

The district’s executive director, Peter Antonacci, told that per the governor’s executive order, lakes north of Lake Okeechobee will start holding back about 20 billion gallons of water that would otherwise flow south and contribute to the releases.

Lake Okeechobee is the largest in Florida and the second largest body of freshwater in the contiguous United States. It’s surrounded by an aging, earthen dike that’s prone to erosion and considered one of the country’s most at-risk for imminent failure.

Flooding around the lake after a major hurricane in 1928 killed at least 2,500 people in surrounding communities of mostly poor, black farmworkers. It inspired the storm central to Zora Neale Hurston‘s novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

To reduce the risk of a breach in the dike built after that hurricane, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tries to keep water levels in the lake between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet above sea level. Freshwater is released east and west of the lake into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

Scott has criticized the Obama Administration and the corps for the discharges that local officials say are ruining coastal estuaries. Though water managers are working to direct more water south of Lake Okeechobee into the parched Everglades, federal regulations, conservation mandates and stalled restoration projects complicate those efforts.

“We’re always looking for a better solution,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, told the Post on Wednesday.

Martin County officials want the locks closed between Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River and a federal emergency declared to address potential hazards to public health and the local economy.

Murky waters on southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast also are being blamed on the lake’s discharges. Fort Myers fisherman Kwame Eaddy said the waters off Sanibel Island look “like motor oil,” WBBH-TV reported.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Quarterback Week: Former UCF star Blake Bortles leads the way for small colleges

They pass in other places, too.

Florida is a quarterback’s state, what with eight Heisman Trophy winners leading championship teams. But all of the quarterbacks have not just been at Florida, FSU and Miami. There have been quality quarterbacks at the other state schools, too.

For instance, you have had two No. 1 draft choices. You have had other NFL players. Quarterbacks have led the way for UCF, for USF, for FAU and for FIU.

Here then, in Quarterback Week at the SaintPetersblog, are the top 10 quarterbacks from Florida’s smaller programs:

10. Ryan Schneider, UCF (2000-2003): Threw for 82 touchdowns. Career ended prematurely when dismissed for academics.

9. Alex McGough, FIU (2014-2015): Just completed his career at FIU. Holds the season record for passing yards.

8. JaJuan Seider, Florida A&M (1997-1999): Seidler was a sixth-round pick by the Chargers.

7. B.J. Daniels, USF (2008-2012): In his first start, Daniels led the Bulls to an upset over FSU. Saw spot duty in the NFL.

6. Josh Padrick, FIU (2003-2006): The career leader for FIU with more than 9,000 yards passing.

5. Matt Grothe, USF (2006-2009): Led the Bulls to the No. 2 ranking in the country. Threw 52 touchdown passes.

4. Rusty Smith, FAU (2006-2009): Smith threw for 86 touchdowns and was a sixth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans.

3. Quinton Flowers (2012-present): Threw for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for 991 to lead USF to a good year last season.

2. Daunte Culpepper, UCF (1996-1998): Culpepper was the 11th pick in the draft by Minnesota. Made three Pro Bowls. He was sixth in 1998 Heisman voting.

1. Blake Bortles, UCF (2011-2013): After his UCF career, he was the third overall pick by the Jacksonville Jags. Has throwin for 46 touchdowns in two years.

Gambling amendment lawyer defends ‘Voters in Charge’ initiative

The lawyer for a proposed constitutional amendment limiting gambling in Florida fired back against critics, saying their arguments have “no basis in law.”

Dan Gelber, lawyer for Voters In Charge, the committee behind the amendment, filed an answer brief with the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The Voter Control of Gambling amendment would give Floridians more control over the expansion of gambling in the state.

Proposed amendments to the Constitution must be OK’d by the Supreme Court to ensure they cover only one subject and that their ballot title and summary aren’t misleading.

“The ballot summary follows the Amendment’s principle language nearly verbatim, so it fairly informs voters of the Amendment’s chief purpose,” Gelber wrote.

“The Opponents’ argument to the contrary—that the ballot summary does not inform voters about its possible effects on statutes and pending litigation—ignores this Court’s consistent pronouncements that a ballot summary must fairly inform voters of the proposed amendment’s chief purpose only,” he added. “There is no requirement whatsoever that a ballot summary detail every possible effect on society, the law, or the economy.”

The amendment would “ensure that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” the ballot summary says.

It’s aiming to get on the 2018 statewide ballot. Such initiatives need 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution.

The amendment is opposed by a gamut of gambling interests, including “Floridians for Clarity in Gaming Control.”

It’s been described as “an unincorporated association of individuals and business sharing concerns regarding the proposed constitutional amendment,” ranging from “registered voters in Seminole County, Florida to arcade operators, members of Native American tribes, casino and lottery vendors and pari-mutuel permit holders.”

Gelber also is a former House Democratic leader and unsuccessfully ran for attorney general in 2010, losing to Republican Pam Bondi.

He also has been general counsel to Fair Districts Now, the coalition behind constitutional amendments aimed at preventing gerrymandering in political redistricting.

Florida’s bizarre fireworks law still in place

It’s almost Independence Day, which in Florida means: Time to scare some birds.

Although you can buy fireworks in the state, they’re not actually legal here.

Indeed, The Tampa Tribune in 2014 called fireworks sales in Florida an “institutionalized charade,” leading one lawmaker to call for “more freedom (and) less fraud.”

Retail sales are allowed only because of a 60-year-old loophole in the law, the only known one of its kind in the country.

That allows “fireworks … to be used solely and exclusively in frightening birds from agricultural works and fish hatcheries.”

Indeed, anyone who’s bought fireworks from a roadside tent over the years may remember signing a form acknowledging that the buyer falls under an agricultural, fisheries or other exemption.

For the record, fireworks can also be used for “signal purposes or illumination” of a railroad or quarry, “for signal or ceremonial purposes in athletics or sports, or for use by military organizations.”

Enforcement is up to local police and fire agencies, and case law says fireworks vendors aren’t responsible for verifying that buyers actually intend to chase off egrets or light up a track meet.

Every so often, lawmakers file bills either to remove or tighten certain exemptions, or to just legalize retail sales of fireworks. None have made it into law.

Three states have outright bans on consumer fireworks: Delaware, Maine and New Jersey, according to the American Pyrotechnic Association.

In Florida, state Rep. Matt Gaetz once tried to legalize Roman candles, bottle rockets and other fireworks for recreational use. The Fort Walton Beach Republican is now running for Congress.

And state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, pushed a similar bill prohibiting sales of fireworks and sparklers only to children under 16 and requiring other buyers to sign a disclaimer saying they know fireworks are dangerous.

“Florida law on fireworks is absurd,” he told “Current law forces law-abiding parents to commit fraud by signing forms declaring the fireworks they buy won’t be used as fireworks to celebrate freedom with their kids but to scare birds off crops.”

Current law “does not promote public safety and should be repealed to simply allow fireworks to be sold,” he added. “More freedom, less fraud.”

Poll: Corrine Brown, Al Lawson in CD 5 dead heat

A poll released Thursday morning by the Public Opinion Research Lab of the University of North Florida shows that Corrine Brown and Al Lawson are running neck and neck in Congressional District 5.

The poll of 400 likely Democratic voters shows Brown leading Lawson 30 percent to 27 percent, well within the 4.9 percent margin of error.

An X Factor: L.J. Holloway, who polls at 4 percent.

A full 40 percent of voters are unsure.

The poll separates Duval County Democrats from those west of the county line. Brown is solid in Jacksonville, but support falls off quickly west, where blue-dog Democrats are prominent and Brown’s legendary political machine never operated.

In Duval, Brown leads Lawson 52 percent to 8 percent.

Out west, the numbers are reversed: Lawson leads Brown 40 percent to 14 percent.

CD5 Counties west of Duval include all of Baker, Gadsden, Hamilton, and Madison counties, as well as portions of Columbia, Jefferson, and Leon.

Region matters here, as does race.

“Although all three candidates are black, there are sharp differences in candidate support by race,” said Michael Binder, head of the PORL operation.

“Brown holds a 15 point edge among black voters, and Lawson holds a 19 point advantage among white voters. Interestingly, more than 60 percent of white voters are unsure how they will vote in August. This group could very easily swing the election.”

Brown has an 8 point edge with women; Lawson, a 5 point lead with men.

Binder believes the key to this election may be a matter of each candidate turning out their regional base.

“Getting voters to turn out is going to be crucial. Brown and Lawson have large leads in their home areas. If Brown can mobilize Duval voters, she can win this race. However, if Duval voters don’t turn out in large numbers, Al Lawson has a path to victory.”

The spread tracks with a similar St. Pete Polls survey conducted late April showing Brown ahead of Lawson 42 to 37 percent.

Jamie Grant doesn’t miss 2014-15 election drama

This year, Jamie Grant got lucky.

The Hillsborough County Republican qualified for office with no opposition, meaning he’s an automatic walk-on for the 2016-18 term.

But for Grant, who represents Florida House District 64, that’s far from the story two years ago.

He was re-elected, then had the results thrown out after legal challenges put them into question, before finally regaining his seat.

“While it’s hard to imagine a more frustrating campaign than last cycle, I’m a big believer in focusing on what you can control and ignoring the rest,” Grant told “The craziness of the last cycle definitely tested that.”

Let’s go back to the beginning: Grant was first elected in 2010, defeating Democrat Michael Steinberg, after prevailing in a five-candidate primary race.

He was re-elected in 2012 without opposition.

But in 2014, the 33-year-old attorney and tech entrepreneur faced a Republican primary challenge from Steinberg’s wife, Miriam Steinberg, a Tampa engineer.

With no other challenger, that would have been an open primary for all voters.

That summer, up popped a write-in candidate for District 64, Daniel Matthews, who had just graduated from Florida State and wound up never campaigning, raising money or talking to reporters.

Soon, Michael Steinberg, also an attorney, challenged Matthews’ write-in candidacy on several grounds.

He claimed Matthews didn’t live in the district but still resided in Tallahassee. Steinberg also said Matthews had unfairly prevented him and other Democrats and independent voters from casting ballots in an open primary.

A trial judge disqualified Matthews, finding he was living in Tallahassee and not Hillsborough County when he qualified.

Matthews appealed, and the 1st District Court of Appeal reinstated him, saying candidates have to live in their districts only at the time they’re elected.

“Jamie was first elected (in 2010) after entering a five-way primary in a race that was all about strategy, micro-targeting, and focusing on the issues,” said Jen Lux, his campaign manager. “Unfortunately, the operation and strategy of the 2014 campaign centered around keeping up with rulings and trying to guess what that meant for the campaign and the district.”

Steinberg then took the case to the Supreme Court, which paused the proceedings until it decided a similar case in South Florida.

(In February, that court struck down the state law requiring write-in candidates to live in the districts they’re running for when they qualify, finding it conflicted with a constitutional provision that requires candidates to live in their districts “at the time of election.”)

Grant won the November 2014 election but the House of Representatives shortly after that tossed out the results, citing the then-ongoing litigation.

That left Grant’s seat vacant, requiring Gov. Rick Scott to call a special election in April 2015. For almost six months, more than 157,000 people went without representation in the Florida House of Representatives, which Grant called “the most frustrating part of the situation.”

“Despite the challenges, our team of volunteers worked incredibly hard last cycle, but could barely keep straight which election they were working towards at which time,” Lux said. “We just knew that Team Grant had to keep driving turnout, and our supporters had to keep voting to ensure Jamie was re-elected.”

But Miriam Steinberg decided not to run again, and Grant finally crumpled Matthews with about 91 percent of the ballot.

The good news out of that Sturm und Drang? It reset Grant’s term-limit clock, meaning he could serve in the Florida House until 2024. 

“I believe campaigns should be about public policy, about ideas, and should be won on the doorsteps of the district, not in a courtroom,” he said. “Going from that experience to being elected without opposition, I pray it’s safe to say I’ve seen the farthest ends of the campaign spectrum over the last two years.”

Darryl E. Owens: SCOTUS hits mark for domestic violence with disarming Voisine ruling

After the Pulse tragedy, gun control talks predictably spiked.

The gun lobby trained its sights on proposals that supposedly kneecapped the Second Amendment. Weary anti-gun violence crusaders petitioned Congress to holster massacres by doing something — anything.

Shouting, pleading, debating, cajoling, exhorting — and a brief political theater revival of circa ‘60s sit-ins — appallingly accomplished doodly-squat.

America’s firm majority which backs broader gun control measures dejectedly shoveled dirt on the latest prospect of kick-starting congressional inertia. That failure, however, did not deter the U.S. Supreme Court at least from wisely keeping plugged a deadly loophole that threatened to boost the annual domestic-violence death toll — already easily dwarfing America’s unnerving, yet sporadic massacres.

In Voisine v. United States, the Supremes ruled 6-2 that perpetrators of reckless (as opposed to planned) domestic violence can forfeit the right to own and bear arms under a federal law that disarms certain citizens including perps convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.

Uncork the Dom Pérignon.

“The ruling is important and will save lives,” says Julia Wyman, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence, a New York-based national nonprofit group. “Domestic violence often escalates and when a weapon is available it is more likely to turn deadly.”

The case involved Stephen L. Voisine and William E. Armstrong III. Both twice were convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault. Both hailed from Maine — where domestic violence murders account for nearly half of its homicides. Authorities later convicted both of violating a 1996 amendment to the federal Gun Control Act named for late Democratic New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Their suit argued their brand of heat-of-the-moment abuse was exempt from the lifetime gun ban under the federal law.

The majority opinion — penned by Justice Elena Kagan — gaveled that tripe.

“Congress must have known it was sweeping in some persons who had engaged in reckless conduct,” Kagan wrote. “Indeed, that was part of the point: to apply firearms restrictions to those abusers, along with all others, whom the states’ ordinary misdemeanor assault laws covered.”

Consequently, the high court treated domestic violence as the relentless, progressive cancer that it is.

One that remains often misdiagnosed by male cops who buy batterers’ wink-winks about frantic 911 calls as misunderstandings or menstrual flares.

One that courts often abet with plea deals that reduce serious assaults to misdemeanors and give Lady Justice — and often later the beleaguered victims — black eyes.

One that often claims victims when tormentors turn to guns to finish the job.

Indeed, the Violence Policy Center’s 2015 release of its annual homicide data study, “When Men Murder Women,” found that in 2013 (the freshest data available) men murdered 1,615 women in one-on-one incidents. Nine in 10 victims knew their killer. Corroborating research, guns largely loomed as the weapon of choice.

“An important step in preventing domestic violence and homicide is to deny abusers access to firearms,” says Kristen Rand, the center’s legislative director. The “Court’s ruling is an important and positive step in the right direction.”

South Carolina, Alaska and New Mexico are the top three for domestic violence murders. Florida’s place on that rogue’s list is anyone’s guess. As has been the habit, Florida didn’t provide data for the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report.

Clearly, Florida’s sunshine doesn’t stave off the cold, callousness of domestic violence.

For instance, in Miami-Dade, the ignominious state leader, police from 2010-2014 fielded some 25,000 cases of domestic violence, notes a recent Miami Herald series.

Just ask Yissel Milanés, whom the Herald profiled. She carries around the pain of more than 20 reconstructive surgeries and the bullet that resides in her skull after her husband shot her in the eye four years as she celebrated her 27th birthday.

While anti-gun violence advocates applaud Voisine, they say the ruling isn’t the period to the run-on need for lifesaving legislation.

“The next step is mandatory background checks for all gun purchases so abusers can’t take advantage of current loopholes,” Wyman says.

Not surprising, Second Amendment cheerleaders jeered the ruling. They found a soul mate in dissenting Justice Clarence Thomas: “We treat no other constitutional right so cavalierly.”

That’s a debate for another day.

What isn’t debatable: the Supremes’ righteous move to preserve the caesura in the unchained melody some sing for unfettered gun ownership — even for abusers — acknowledges America can no longer treat so cavalierly the welfare of women whose battered lives often end in a muzzle-flash.


Former award-winning Orlando Sentinel columnist Darryl E. Owens now serves as director of communication at Beacon College in Leesburg, the first higher education institution accredited to award bachelor’s degrees primarily to students with learning disabilities, ADHD and other learning differences. Views expressed are his own.