Has Florida been Lagging on Gun Rights?

Florida has recently been in the news thanks to the bold leadership of Ron DeSantis against the Wuhan virus pandemic. Despite Florida’s strong leadership in the Governor’s Mansion, its pro-gun policies still leave a lot to be desired.

To be fair, this isn’t the fault of DeSantis but rather the weak Republican leadership in the Florida State Legislature. 

Earlier this month, Tim Macy, the Chairman of Gun Owners of America noted how a Florida gun group has provided cover for the Florida state government and its pro-establishment ways.

Earlier this month, Florida Carry levied a series of attacks against GOA’s Florida director Luis Valdes, which in effect, was an attack on GOA.

The attack was republished by United Sportsmen of Florida in addition to another state group in Florida.

GOA took the high road and did not talk smack about the other pro-gun groups. Macy did, however, come to his fellow GOA employee’s defense.

Like other no compromise organizations, GOA has built a reputation of attacking Republicans who are flimsy on the Second Amendment. This irks not just many establishment politicians but also access-based gun lobbies that prefer to coddle politicians instead of rocking the boat. 

This is why Florida’s GOA chapter has been attacked; simply for calling out politicians who refuse to pass significant pro-Second Amendment bills. And this is taking place in Florida, a supposedly “red” state with solid Republican majorities. Florida State Representative Cord Byrd has been one of the principal targets of GOA. Byrd has refused to consider solid pro-Second Amendment legislation such as Constitutional Carry and Second Amendment sanctuaries despite saying he would bring up said legislation. 

Florida Carry spokesman Lee Williams attacked GOA and even questioned Valdes’ motives, asserting: “I understand Valdes wants to generate buzz and possibly a headline, and he’s not the first to go after a well-known member of the gun community in the hopes it will create even more of a splash.” 

Such comments are commonplace in any kind of no compromise activism where establishment politicians and gate keeping organizations find ways to discredit any activism that rocks the boat.

There have been a few exceptions in the Florida state legislature as far principled representatives go. State Representative Anthony Sabatini is among those who have stood out in their efforts to bring about genuine no compromise reforms in Tallahassee. Sabatini is the current sponsor of Constitutional Carry and has repeatedly pointed out that Republicans in Tallahassee are killing pro-Second Amendment legislation behind the scenes.

During his time in office, Sabatini has caught establishment politicians killing solid legislation underneath the public’s nose. The Florida State Representative has routinely called them out for their establishment shenanigans. 

According to a media report covering a recent press conference,“Sabatini called out his fellow Republicans, some by name … for not doing enough for gun rights.”

Such scenarios are all too common when lobbying Republicans to pass solid pro-gun legislation. They’ll always come up with excuses that they can’t get the votes to pass popular legislation like Constitutional carry.

That’s why grassroots pressure is necessary. Politicians won’t act until they face sufficient pressure from the grassroots. Based on Cord Byrd’s behavior, it’s clear he will require some pressure put on him and then some. 

In the Florida State Legislature, Byrd was assigned as Committee Chair for the House’s Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee. This committee is where the majority of pro-Second Amendment legislation is sent to.

Byrd actually has a solid track record as evidenced by his vote against SB 7026, a bill that was passed in 2018 and established an under-21 firearm purchase ban, red flag gun confiscation orders, and a bump stock ban. 

According to GOA’s account of the situation, Valdes approached Byrd and asked him if he was going to bring up HB 123 (Constitutional Carry), the repeal of the 2018 gun control package, and other pro-gun measures. Byrd confirmed that these bills would be addressed during the middle of the legislative session.

Unfortunately, it seems that Florida’s GOA chapter was given the cold shoulder. This is a very familiar scene for anyone who has been involved in gun rights activism. Republican representatives constantly blow off grassroots activists.

Florida’s GOA chapter should not hang its head down. GOP elected officials being reluctant to move forward pro-Second Amendment legislation comes with the territory. The key is that relentless pressure be placed on politicians so that they behave right. 

GOA knows this and will undoubtedly continue doing this in the foreseeable. Other pro-establishment gun lobbies will get mad, but their opinions don’t matter at the end of the day. To get anything meaningful done in politics you have to ruffle some feathers.

Organizations that aren’t doing that have zero impact when it’s all said and done.

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