Florida: Guns 1, Victims 0

The Florida legislature reacted to pro-gun-control protests about as negatively as possible. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

So did you think the widespread public horror over the Parkland massacre, and the demands of students and parents there and elsewhere for an end to gun madness, would have any immediate effect on the relevant politicians? Think again, in light of today’s development in the Florida legislature:

Less than a week after 17 people were fatally shot at a Florida high school, the state House has voted down a motion to take up a bill that would ban assault rifles, effectively killing the measure for this session.

The motion failed by a 36-71 vote.

This happened even though Parkland survivors traveled to Tallahassee today to call for the ban.

Keep in mind that an assault rifle ban would not be some new frontier in gun control, but simply the reimposition at the state level of a policy the federal government followed for a decade, from 1994 until the ban expired in 2004. It expired not because crime had exploded (au contraire) or people were marching in the streets to reclaim their Second Amendment rights — but simply because Republicans had obtained undivided control of the federal government, as they also have today (they also have undivided control of state government in Florida).

Now anyone familiar with trends in gun regulation since the GOP’s big state government landslides of 2010 and 2014 shouldn’t be the least bit surprised at the rejection of calls for action in Florida. Only six very blue states (plus the District of Columbia) have imposed assault weapons bans since the federal ban expired. More typical of the way the political winds have blown is the rapid expansion into all 50 states of concealed-carry laws, which the U.S. House of Representatives, though not the Senate, recently voted to expand by making reciprocal recognition of licenses mandatory (i.e., licenses granted by the least restrictive states are good everywhere). And in much of the South, there’s been a robust debate over how far to go in forcing various people and places to let you bring your hand cannon with you if you choose to visit.

Florida’s system could be worse: In 2014 neighboring Georgia passed a “guns-everywhere” law that required bars and churches to specifically opt out of a general rule allowing firearms on the premises. The state followed that up with a “campus carry” law that protects gun-toting at colleges. In the Sunshine State, you can pack heat when you go to church, but may have to check your weapons at the door at bars and colleges.

In any event, the powerful forces favoring loose or non-existent gun laws aren’t about to be held back by gun massacres, however frequent or horrific, much less by the protests of survivors. Right-wing opinion leader Dinesh D’Souza sneered at the very idea after the Florida legislature put down the assault weapons bill:

It’s more like Guns 1, Victims 0. And we shouldn’t expect that to change any time real soon.

Florida: Guns 1, Students 0