To the National Rifle Association, Gov. Rick Scott can do no wrong.
Recently, the NRA sent a message to members praising the Republican governor for setting a record — signing more pro-gun legislation in his first term than any other governor in recent history..
Scott signed 12 NRA-backed measures into law since taking office in 2011, nine more than former Gov. Charlie Crist, who also enjoyed a GOP-dominated Legislature between 2007 and 2010, writes Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.
Crist is now a Democratic contender to face Scott in the upcoming elections.
Scott number is still two short of the number of laws by former Gov. Jeb Bush, who holds the one-year record of six pro-gun and hunting bills signed in 2006. The previous year Bush put his name to the “stand your ground” law. However, Bush’s 14 new pro-guns laws were over eight years.
“Governor Scott supports the Second Amendment, and works every day to ensure Florida families are kept safe,” said NRA spokesperson John Tupps in an email. “Florida is at a 43-year crime low, and Governor Scott will review any legislation that the Legislature passes and sends to his desk.”
Turner notes that Scott’s bills range from the highly controversial, such as the 2011″docs vs. glocks” law placed on hold by a federal judge in 2012, to less contentious reduced fees for a new concealed carry weapons licences and allowing tax collectors’ offices to process applications for concealed-weapon licenses.
“The bills that Gov. Scott has signed will make and have made an enormous difference,” said NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida representative Marion Hammer. “These laws will have major impact on law-abiding gun owners.”
Hammer, an influential Tallahassee lobbyist, wasn’t as enamoured with politically flexible Crist, who left office with only”A” rating from the NRA. In Crist’s 2010 U.S. Senate campaign, he claimed to have “never wavered in his support for the Second Amendment.”
Crist received “profound appreciation” of the NRA in May 2009 for his veto of a plan to sweep $6 million from the Concealed Weapons and Firearms Licensing Trust Fund to help balance the state budget. Crist signed legislation allowing concealed weapons permit-holders to keep guns in vehicles while at work; he also appointed state Supreme Court justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston, both supported by the NRA.
Hammer also pointed to Crist’s weaker support for “critically important bills” discussed outside of committee meetings during his time as governor.
“When you’re trying to pass legislation, sometimes legislators will ask (the governor) what they’ll do, and if they’re non-committal, that’s always like a negative,” said Hammer about Crist.
A Crist spokesperson said this week that the former governor continues his support of the Second Amendment, although he favors “sensible gun safety steps” for safe communities and children.
“For example, he believes we should get military-style assault weapons and high-capacity clips off the streets and institute tougher background checks to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands,” said Crist representative Kevin Cate in an email.
Gun-friendly laws are on the rise, as more Floridians own guns.
Florida issued 1.27 million concealed-weapon or firearm licenses through May 31, according to records from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The state passed became the first in the nation to pass the 1 million mark as of Dec. 2012.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement provided 869,457 background checks for gun purchases in 2013. When Crist took office in 2007, the number was 406,370, rising to 606,655 in 2011, Scott’s first full year in office. Background checks include an applicant’s criminal history and reviews of the mental-health database.
Scott signed five gun-rights bills in 2014, one in 2013 and three each in 2011 and 2012.
Bills signed this year prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage or increasing rates as a result of fun or ammunition ownership. People can threaten to use force, and show guns in self-defense. In addition, a new law prevents schoolchildren from being disciplined for pretending to have guns while playing or for wearing clothes with images of firearms.
“There were not a lot of contentious bills, they were not all that controversial, there were just some contentious people,” said Hammer.
Opposition to the “docs and glocks” bill aside, most of the controversy in recent sessions over gun bills were failed efforts to repeal the state’s 2005 “stand your ground” self-defense law, which allows deadly force and “no duty to retreat” to prevent death or great bodily harm.
The bill approved this year known as the “warning shot” law, modified “stand your ground” to give immunity to those who threaten to use a firearm in self-defense.