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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Florida lawmakers convene this week in Tallahassee, an event traditionally kicked off by a barrage of wacko gun legislation.

This year, some of it actually stands a chance of passing.

The worst by far is a bill filed in both the House and Senate that would eliminate all “gun-free” zones in the state. If passed, persons with concealed-weapons permits would be able to carry firearms to pro sports events, bars, police stations, K-12 public schools, public colleges and universities, courthouses, polling places, government meetings, seaports, and airport passenger terminals.

To single out just one of the many pathways to random bloodshed, Republican lawmakers seem determined to make handguns accessible wherever mass quantities of alcohol are being consumed.

What would normally be a sloppy fistfight in the stands at a Dolphins game could literally be a .45-caliber shootout next season. And if you think campus keg parties aren’t lively enough, throw a couple of loaded Glocks into the mix.

Polls show widespread opposition to abolishing gun-free zones, a view shared by college officials, business leaders, and many in law enforcement.

But the politicians pushing for more firearms in public are serving a higher master: the NRA.

Its unabashed darling in the Senate is mild-mannered Dennis Baxley, who is, fittingly, an undertaker by trade. His Ocala funeral parlor could see an uptick in business if guns are allowed in bars.

On the House side, Speaker Richard Corcoran insists criminals and mass shooters are attracted to gun-free zones because they know civilians there won’t be armed. Lawmakers say the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando and the shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport might have been prevented if the victims had been carrying weapons.

This Charles Bronson fantasy is avidly promoted by the NRA. It relies on the false premise that anyone with a concealed-weapons permit is both calm enough and skilled enough to fire a handgun in crowded mayhem and actually hit the right person.

The airport mass shooting, committed by an unhinged legal gun owner, took less than 90 seconds. The victims, some on their way to meet a cruise ship, had just gotten off a Delta flight.

Even if any of them had brought a weapon, it would have been packed inside their checked luggage, as was the shooter’s semiautomatic Walther. The killing was over before many of the bags landed on the carousel.

So much for the Bronson scenario.

It took an army of cops to bring down the Pulse shooter (another licensed gun owner), yet we’re supposed to believe he could have been taken out by a single armed club patron, pointing a handgun in dimly lit clamor at a fast-moving assailant firing an assault rifle.

Well, maybe in the movies.

NRA-backed lawmakers won key committee assignments in the new Legislature, which means that several of this session’s bad gun laws have a better-than-usual chance of passing.

One such bill, opposed by prosecutors, makes it easier for shooters to claim a Stand Your Ground defense. It resurfaces now, as a retired Tampa police captain is on trial for fatally shooting a man during a confrontation in a movie theater.

The victim was armed with a bag of popcorn and a cell phone.

Even if the state’s gun-free zones are abolished, companies and private business owners can’t legally be required to allow customers with weapons on their property. Never fear — one GOP senator has a devious compliance tactic.

Sen. Greg Steube of Bradenton, a favorite pet of the NRA, has filed a bill aimed to punish the many retailers, restaurants, nightclubs, theme parks, movie theaters and other businesses that prohibit firearms. Among the big names potentially affected would be Disney, Costco, and Whole Foods.

Steube’s measure would allow anyone holding a concealed-weapons permit to sue a gun-banning establishment if he or she gets shot, or otherwise assaulted, on the premises. The legal claim would be that they could have protected themselves had they been armed.

It’s a tort lawyer’s dream. If your drunken stepbrother sneaks a stolen pistol into a bar and shoots you in the ass, you get to sue the bar because you were deprived of the chance to shoot him first.

That scenario fits Will Ferrell better than Charles Bronson, but it’s closer to reality than the NRA can ever admit.

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.