cartoon by Chan Lowe, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Stand Your Ground hearings (August 5, 2013)

Will Weatherford, Florida’s youthful Speaker of the House, may not have been in politics for long, but he’s clearly grasped one of the most important principles of legislative leadership: Never create a special panel to review anything unless you can be absolutely sure up front that the outcome will be to your liking.

 

The standoff over Stand Your Ground is a perfect example. It’s embarrassing to our Republican governor and Legislature that a bunch of whiny civil-rights types have decided to camp out in front of Gov. Scott’s office in the Capitol hallway. It focuses the state’s, and the nation’s, attention on the fact that Florida was the first to pass the statute familiarly known as “Shoot First” — and that our representatives in Tallahassee are completely, shamelessly and unquestioningly owned and operated by Marion Hammer and the NRA.

 

Also, some bleeding-heart Democrats from Down South have been suggesting amendments to the no-holds-barred law, like rendering it inapplicable as a defense if the shooter (and, conveniently, the only surviving witness) instigated the confrontation. That sort of thing sounds disarmingly reasonable, and if enough pressure were brought to bear by constituents, might cause some of the foot soldiers in the House to waver.

 

So Weatherford has made an adroit chess move. He’s agreed to hearings on SYG, which makes him look reasonable, but he’s made sure that the chairman he hand picked for this blue-ribbon panel, Rep. Matt Gaetz, is so in-the-tank on the issue that “he wouldn’t change one comma” in the law were it left up to him. 

 

While on the surface Weatherford can boast that he’s willing to hear all sides of the argument, the truth is that even if any South Florida Democrats manage to weasel their way onto the committee, they’re likely to be gaveled into submission — with a smack on the cranium, if necessary.

 

Worse, I’d hate to think what might happen if Rep. Gaetz were to feel “legitimately threatened” by one of the other members.