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Florida Does it Again

Only in the Sunshine State

by LAURA FINLEY

Last time I wrote about things that trouble me in my current home state of Florida, I received some pretty nasty responses. One person emailed that my criticism of some of the laws in the state was an affront to those who have served the U.S in foreign wars (I still don’t see how, but never mind) and strongly suggested that I move to Russia or Saudi Arabia. But, eight years after my arrival, I am still here, and at the risk of receiving even more hateful responses, I am again compelled to offer a criticism of some of Florida’s latest dandies.

First, there is the state judiciary’s ridiculous conversation about whether to allow a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for medical purposes on the state’s November ballot. Although the proposed legislation names only nine diseases for which doctors could prescribe pot, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston, writing for the minority in the court’s 4-3 decision, expressed the absurdity that, because a section of the proposal offers immunity for prescribing doctors,  “a physician, in his misguided ‘professional opinion,’ could believe that the benefits of marijuana for a teething toddler would likely outweigh the risks, and, therefore, recommend that the toddler use marijuana three times a day for six months until the teething subsided.” Indeed. Maybe we’ll see pot poultice prescribed for diaper rash as well.

Next we have Florida’s latest case of vigilantism, where the movie-theater texting of a man to his young daughter so outraged a 71-year-old former cop that he left the theater, retrieved his gun, and shot and killed the 43-year old and wounded his wife.  Although some have responded to the assailant with condemnation, others in the state that the NRA built have offered their support. Because why should we act with restraint when encountered with a minor annoyance? Better to go all in, regardless of the consequences. Why wait until Florida makes texting in a theater a capital offense? Summary execution works for the NRA.

Although Florida is not the only state to allow guns on campuses, colleges and universities responded swiftly to a state court decision that overturned a University of North Florida ban on weapons in cars. Within days, Broward College announced it will now allow people to pack heat in their vehicles, and Miami Dade College, Palm Beach State College, and Florida International University officials say they are planning to do so as well. In true Florida fashion, it doesn’t look like it will stop here, as legislation has already been filed by Florida Carry, a gun-rights group, to allow students to keep guns in their dorms. Students and faculty: Start wearing your Kevlar to class.

I know I am not the only person troubled by the notion that people will have easier access to weapons on campus.  Studies have generally found that a number of initiatives can make a campus safer, but arming its populace is typically not among them.

In another example of why Florida is called the Gunshine State, the Miami Herald reported just days ago that a snowbirder living in Big Pine Key has installed a gun range in the back of his home. It seems that state law allows him to do so, as the Republican-led, NRA-loving Florida Legislature in 2011 forbade cities from enforcing their own gun regulations or adding new gun-related legislation. Guess I’ll wear that Kevlar at home as well, in case my neighbors want to begin target shooting too.

Not two months ago, Florida also had this winner:  A man actually tried to trade a live four-foot alligator for a 12-pack of beer. I kid you not. But he did keep the gator in good shape, officials report, so there’s that.

In breaking news, the state is seeing its second Zombie attack, as it is being reported as I write that a naked man died late on Tuesday February 4 after he assaulted a retired police officer, bit another man on the face, and was shot by Palm Beach county deputies.  Only in Florida.

At least Justin Bieber has not been arrested in the state in the last week.  We have to take our wins where we can get them.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology. Her column is syndicated by Peace Voice.