Marsha Shearer, March 31, 2023 (published in villages-news.com)
The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness. Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors
Imagine if you will, traveling to another dimension, a dimension where logic and critical thinking are forbidden, where factual study of the past is outlawed, where government dictates what is truth, and where individuality and freedom of choice—in all its rich mosaic—are viewed as contagious and punishable sins (House Bill 1467, HB 1421, Senate Bill 0254).
Imagine a government that dictates what can and cannot be taught and read at every level of education (HB 1223, HB 0999).
Imagine a place where public education is being destroyed under the guise of “freedom of choice” as money is funneled from public education to voucher schools—with uncertified teachers, unqualified staff and zero accountability (signed into law, Mar. 24, 2023).
Imagine a place that espouses freedom but uses propaganda to maintain tight control of all aspects of government, censoring and punishing those who stray from its dictates (HB 1467-Stop W.O.K.E. Act).
Imagine a government that refuses to acknowledge the rights of more than half its citizens to make decisions about their own body (SB 0300).
Imagine a government that seeks to punish and denigrate people by using a single word to separate the good citizens (those who are obedient and comply) from the bad (those who are “woke”–defined by Wikipedia as “well informed, alert to injustices, compassionate, supportive of civil and human rights and equal justice under the law”).
Imagine a place where drag shows get more attention from the dictator-in-chief than Floridians being shot to death (www.thehill.com/homenews/statewatch/3791160).
Now imagine that elected leader, turned dictator, who vows to sign a law that will actually enable increased gun violence.
Welcome to Florida.
And it’s about to get worse.
Now, imagine this same dimension, with its divided and aggrieved citizenry, able to purchase guns of all kinds—including assault rifles—without permit, without training, and without the purchaser ever having held or fired a gun. And now imagine these gun-toting citizens being allowed to carry their precious guns openly, in public places.
You don’t have to imagine. This is likely what’s coming to your neighborhood party, your favorite grocery store, your local bar, the Square where you go for entertainment, and perhaps, to schools and universities—even to your church, synagogue, or mosque.
DeSantis has given the Florida Legislature his approval for an amendment to the permitless carry legislation (HB 543) that would allow Floridians to carry and display loaded firearms in public places (Tallahassee Democrat, March 4, 2023).
Here are a few key facts reported by the Gun Violence Archive:
• Gun violence is the leading cause of death of children in the United States.
• In the first 86 days of 2023, there have been 131 mass shootings, including the most recent killings in Nashville. Over 9,000 Americans have died by gun violence so far this year.
• The more guns available, the more deaths and injuries.
Here’s data specific to the legislation supported by DeSantis and reported to the State Legislature by the Giffords Law Center:
• Studies show states that have weakened their public carry laws experience a 13-15% increase in violent crime rates, as well as an 11% increase in homicides committed with handguns.
• Weakening public carry laws, and removing provisions like live-fire training and violent misdemeanor prohibitions—which Florida currently has—result in a 22% increase in gun assaults.
• Between July 2021 and June 2022, 7,605 Florida residents with a violent history were disqualified from obtaining a gun permit. Permitless carry will strip these provisions.
DeSantis and his sycophants in Tallahassee have created legislation most Floridians oppose. Recent polling by Giffords and Global Strategy Group in Miami-Dade show voters are strongly opposed to permitless carry, with over two-thirds (68%) against the policy. Statewide, that percentage is 61%. It’s a safe assumption that adding open carry would result in even greater opposition.
As an aside, Florida does appear to have some concern for people who interact with the public. For instance, the Giffords Center researched current licensing requirements in Florida and found that the state requires 1,200 hours of training to obtain a license to cut hair, 500 hours to obtain a massage therapist license, and 240 hours to become a licensed manicurist. This should help us all rest easy as we sink ever more deeply, at gun point, into the twilight zone.
Now, imagine if you will, living in a dimension where everyone has inherent value and worth. Imagine a place of safety and acceptance, regardless of how people define themselves, and where liberty and justice for all and the right to happiness are more than just words. Imagine a place where critical thinking is valued, and everyone has the opportunity to achieve, to fully participate in their government, and where “do unto others” and “seeking a more perfect union” is a way of life.
When permitless carry legislation is signed into law (it passed the House on March 24th), as people go about their lives, fear and the threat of intimidation will be as close as a walk down the street, a shopping trip to the mall, or kids leaving for school.
In this dimension, called reality, the “free state of Florida” is a gross contradiction; a sick joke played on Florida voters, and soon to be debuted before the nation—as soon as the Republican legislature changes the Constitution to allow a seated governor to run for national office.
Perhaps America will view Florida’s twilight zone as fair warning and will reject DeSantis’ fascistic approach to governing. If not, a new dawn will be light-years away.
Marsha Shearer is a resident of The Villages and the author of “America in Crisis: Essays on the Failed Presidency of Donald J. Trump.”