There was Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam standing before the Capitol Press Corp proudly armed with a line graph showing that at some point in the third week of December the number of concealed weapons holders in the state would reach one million.
Needless to say, Commissioner Putnam — one of the more capable politicians in the state — could not foresee the tragedy which would unfold forty-eight hours later in Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty bright first graders with their entire lives ahead of them were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Along with the students, the lives of six school staffers, including a devoted teacher and a proud principal, were lost.
It is the worst kind of knee-jerk reaction to attempt to tie the horror in Newtown with a press conference in Tallahassee. Still, it’s reasonable to ask if Putnam and all of the other Florida politicians who boasted about Florida being home to one million residents with concealed weapons — along with millions more with legal firearms and countless others with illegal ones — would do so today?
The answer is no, but yes.
No, Adam Putnam nor any of the other state lawmakers would be so crass as to hold a press conference and tout ‘Florida has a lot of guns’ while the rest of the country is in a collective state of mourning. But, don’t expect Putnam nor the National Rifle Association’s Marion Hammer or any other Second Amendment advocate to yield one inch of ground on the issue of gun control.
You can take it from their cold, dead hands and all that, remember?
By the way Putnam, Hammer, etc., tell it, those million concealed weapons holders is a good thing. “Clearly it is a popular law and has been taken advantage of by a large number of Floridians who have acted responsibly,” Putnam said at last week’s press conference. And that large number is increasing. Last Tuesday, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said the agency processed more criminal background checks for firearms on the Black Friday shopping day than any single day in the agency’s history.
But just because a law is popular does not make it right.
Gun rights advocates will argue that guns don’t kill people – people do. By the same token, planes don’t kill people – people flying them into buildings do. (An earlier version of this post credited the Miami Herald‘s Marc Caputo, rather than Andrew Sullivan’s blog for this paragraph). And yet the government immediately and decisively worked to keep deranged people from gaining possession of planes when a handful of those people used them as tools of mass murder; indeed, we made it much more difficult for the overwhelming majority of peaceful, law-abiding citizens to board a plane.
In other words, there are sensible responses to the calls — this time more immediate and impassioned than after other recent shooting sprees — for increased gun control.
What doesn’t make sense any more are politicians bragging about the number of concealed weapons its residents possess. How did this statistic ever become a benchmark of which to be proud?
I began writing this post by tweeting the question I asked at the beginning. The Miami Herald‘s Marc Caputo immediately responded “Yes” — yes, Florida politicians would still boast about there being one million concealed weapons. I don’t doubt Caputo’s answer. In fact, let me share the first four right-on paragraphs of a column Caputo published right after I asked me question.
Florida will hit the 1 million-mark for concealed-weapon permit-holders in the coming days, a stat reported last week that received scant attention.
That wouldn’t have been the case if Sandy Hook Elementary School was in what’s sometimes called “the Gunshine State” instead of Connecticut.
Reporters, advocates and experts would have descended on Florida, combed through its generous gun laws and examined the line between statute and slaughter.
That’s what we do as a society: We try to wring reason out of the senseless.