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Politics

Is anywhere in Florida truly safe?

Catherine Rampell on

PARKLAND, Fla. -- Smut, not guns, is the great risk to teenagers.

So say Florida lawmakers, who -- days after one of the deadliest school massacres in history occurred on their doorstep, as the child survivors of that massacre watched from the gallery -- refused to consider a bill banning assault-style rifles. About an hour later, those same legislators passed a resolution declaring that pornography endangers teenage health. Say what you will about porn, but to my knowledge, it has not been used to slaughter teens.

This was disappointing but not altogether surprising. The Gunshine State has long preferred the Second Amendment to the First.

More broadly, for years now, my beloved home state has placed the interests of the National Rifle Association above the interests of Floridians.

Florida's most notorious legal innovation is, of course, Stand Your Ground, the 2005 NRA-backed gun law that said a person who feels threatened has no duty to retreat before engaging in deadly force, even outside the home. The law likely contributed to the exoneration of the man who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and has been linked to an increase in homicides.

But Stand Your Ground is hardly the only case of extreme Floridian deference to the gun lobby.

There was also Docs vs. Glocks, a 2011 NRA-supported law that restricted doctors' rights to ask patients whether they have a gun and to talk to them about firearm safety. A federal court struck down the law last year on First Amendment grounds.

Before that, the state legislature granted shooting ranges widespread immunity from environmental laws. Why? The NRA complained that environmental agencies wanted to make gun ranges pay for the decades' worth of bullet lead leaching into water supplies.

Then there are all the other crazy behaviors that the state encourages of residents.

Floridians can set up shooting ranges in their back yards, for example, with no restrictions on what kinds of weapons or time of day they can shoot. Again, the consequences were predictable. Two years ago, a 14-year-old girl in Collier County was standing inside her home when she was struck in the hand by a stray bullet from her neighbor's target practice.

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