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Thursday, May 23, 2024

When we talk about Florida politics, we usually do so in language expressing exasperation and disbelief. There is, after all, plenty to be angry about these days: Statewide, the ongoing battle over whether to allow fracking in Florida has intensified in recent days, and here in Gainesville, we’re contending with how to best correct overbilling and mismanagement on the part of Gainesville Regional Utilities and the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center.

There’s also the not-so-little matter of gun legislation. As we reported Feb. 5, the Florida House of Representatives passed two bills aimed at allowing registered gun owners to openly carry firearms in Florida. As it stands, Florida is one of four states that do not allow firearms to be carried, well, anywhere in public. Naturally, this law also applies to college campuses.

We find it silly that such bills would even be drafted, as Florida is doing just fine on regrettable gun violence without them. Back in November, the Jacksonville-based Florida Times-Union published an extended story — complete with a compilation of relevant cases in Duval County — on Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws, which have become the center of national controversy, particularly following the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin. In their research, they came upon several instances where Stand Your Ground not only failed to protect those it was meant to help, meaning Floridians seeking to make self-defense claims, but also created further ambiguities for lawyers and defendants seeking recourse through our state’s legal system; this is without even acknowledging the uncomfortable racial politics behind the law.

With both our state’s polarized political climate and gun-crazy culture in mind, we expected the worst when the two aforementioned open-carry bills reached the Florida Senate. But something remarkable happened in Tallahassee on Friday: Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, refused to hear the bills. Because the bills had been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Diaz de la Portilla chairs, his refusal to hear them more or less sentenced them to an ignominious death. When explaining his decision, Diaz de la Portilla said his reasoning stemmed from “Really nothing more than common sense.”

If it weren’t Wednesday and we didn’t abide by our own strict, self-imposed rules, we’d give Diaz de la Portilla ALL of the Laurels. Operating on principle, rather than answering to lobbyists, is what good politicking is — or at least ought to be — all about.

“I just don’t think any of these bills are necessary,” Diaz de la Portilla said when talking to The Sun Sentinel on his policies. “And I don’t think any of these bills have anything to do with gun rights. They have to do with public safety, and I don’t think any of these bills make us any safer. In fact, quite the opposite.”

In the same article, Diaz de la Portilla went on to say, “I think there’s a reason why every college and university president and all campus law enforcement are all against campus carry. And with open carry, same thing… Just because you have a concealed carry permit and just because you have a handgun doesn’t mean you’re trained to respond in an emergency situation.”

We couldn’t agree more. In a time when “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” star Donald Trump is the GOP front runner and American politicians on both sides of the aisle seem more interested in serving their respective parties than their people, it is comforting, if only slightly, to know some elected representatives still value their morals and consciences over party prerogative and interest-group favoritism.

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