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1/13/2010

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

You know what? Gun laws are way too restrictive in this state. After all, the right to bear arms is in the Ten Commandments, isn’t it? That’s why some local Republicans in the Florida House are lifting their tails for the tea-baggers, me-too-ing a futile-but-symbolic bill crafted to keep gun-waving neo-Confederates from bolting Republican ranks in search of even further-right representation.

The “Florida Firearms Freedom Act” is a clone of a bill already passed in Montana and Tennessee, and being waved around in two dozen other states. After rhetoric about the Second, Ninth and Tenth Commandments, er, Amendments, it declares that “specified firearms, firearm accessories, and ammunition for personal use manufactured in state are not subject to federal law or regulation.”

So long as the resulting guns don’t leave the Sunshine State, the feds would have no way to track them; but like confidently announcing that the Earth is flat, just saying something doesn’t make it so.

In mid-July, gunmakers and dealers in Montana and Tennessee got nearly identical letters from Carson Carroll, assistant director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Carroll told them that no matter what majority of state legislators want gun sovereignty, local declarations are still trumped by federal licensing and recording requirements.

“These, as well as other Federal requirements and prohibitions, apply whether or not the firearms or ammunition have crossed state lines,” the letters say.

There are lawsuits underway in both states challenging Carroll’s dictum, but their prospects are dubious. Legal scholars politely point out that the basic question here was settled long ago: The federal government can regulate just about anything it wants. For details, see “1865.”

Florida House Bill 21 is sponsored by Rep. Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake. Its backing is unanimously Republican; 36 have signed on as co-sponsors, including almost the whole Orlando-area Republican contingent in the House. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, are not on the current co-sponsor list, and of course local Democrats aren’t either. There’s a matching Senate version, introduced by Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis; but none of its three co-sponsors are from around here.

Of course, the bill’s about a lot more than guns. It’s a sop to the “Tenthers,” Constitutional cranks who also rant (on websites like www.firearmsfreedomact.com) about climate change “treason,” “Going Galt” to “starve the monkeys,” dark fantasies of a “U.N. one-world government” and similar Tea Party catchphrases. That sort of noise scares Republican representatives who are watching Marco Rubio wave his weapon at Charlie Crist.

And then there were none? Every four years for the past eight centuries or so we’ve wondered aloud to ourselves just how it is that Orlando District 5 commissioner Daisy Lynum – she of the insane travel itineraries, midnight calls for police favors and grandma ramblings about just how deeply she doesn’t understand the city agenda items clogging her binder – always manages to clean up come election time. Never mind that she is her own public relations nightmare, regularly trotting out snipes at local media who love to hate her, or that you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody on the street to vouch for her merit as a public official.

Instead, with each election cycle, a new batch of would-be challengers lines up like targets at a shooting range – each with promises of reform, transparency and/or intelligence – and, with a seeming wave of Lynum’s magic wand, quickly goes away. What gives?

Late last year, Lynum’s most outspoken opponent, Ezell “E-Z” Harris, was the first to fall, targeted by a Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation sting that yielded a medicine chest of happy headache medicine, enough even to throw him – and his rather loud campaign – into the pokey. Then textile businessman James Drayton quietly bowed out just before the holidays, citing bad health and no money.

That left the political onus on Dr. Vibert White, a UCF history professor who could not foul this thing up if he tried. White was even celebrated by the Orange County Republican Executive Committee last spring when he announced, because he was not Lynum and he openly denounced Louis Farrakhan. Also, his campaign manager, Lawanna Gelzer, never entered a city race that she ever had a chance of winning (including previous runs against Lynum in 1998 and 2002). What could possibly go wrong?

Fast-forward to Jan. 5, when Orange-Osceola circuit judge Theotis Bronson issued an injunction against White in order to keep him away from an ex-girlfriend after a skirmish that might or might not have involved him breaking down a bathroom door and punching her in the stomach. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect: The Orlando Sentinel took pains on Dec. 10 to unearth White’s previous three arrests involving ladyfriends, all of which he called “lies.” Then, on Dec. 23, the bathroom door mystically came down, along with White’s chances of being a credible candidate.

Gelzer says the fight for Daisy’s seat is far from over. She calls coverage in the “Slantinel” character assassination, and says White is planning to qualify Jan. 13 Wednesday with a 1 p.m. press conference. She promises a big ol’ packet of info at the press conference, apparently credibly challenging the Sentinel reports. “I wonder why they’re in bankruptcy!” she notes of her ink-stained friends at the daily.

Should be an interesting election March 9.

On Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a woman can abort a pregnancy for any reason until the point the fetus becomes “viable” outside the womb. The case in question was titled Roe v. Wade. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

Years later, Norma McCorvey identified herself as the case’s eponymous “Jane Roe.” At the time of her pregnancy, McCorvey was a carnival barker in Texas. By the time she was 21, she’d had a rough life of alcohol, drug and sexual abuse. She’d already had two children – one raised by her mother and the other given up for adoption – and didn’t want a third. She wanted an abortion, but that was illegal in Texas at the time except in cases of rape. So she said she was raped. But there was no police report to back that up, so she was not able to get an abortion. McCorvey gave birth to a child who was given up for adoption.

For a time, McCorvey worked for abortion rights. But now, 37 years later, she is an anti-abortion activist, an “ex-lesbian” and a Christian who has expressed remorse for her part in legalizing abortion. She has since tried to get the Supreme Court to reverse this landmark decision, but the law still stands.

If you believe, as the Supremes did all those years ago, that a woman has the right to make this decision without government interference, then consider marking the anniversary with Planned Parenthood. They’re planning a celebration 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando, 1901 E. Robinson St. If celebrating the right to have an abortion seems macabre, consider that there are a large number of folks marking the same anniversary who will do anything, including murder, to take that right away.

happytown@orlandoweekly.com
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