Florida Stand Your Ground Sponsor: ‘Everything’s on the Table’ in Gun Control Discussion After Newtown Shooting

Author of Florida law talks about gun control in wake of Conn. shooting

One of the authors of Florida's Stand Your Ground law says "everything's on the table" in a discussion about gun laws in the Sunshine State in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, a sponsor of the state's justifiable use of force statute, said the gun control debate is inevitable following the tragedy at Newtown.

"Everything's on the table for sure but this needs a thorough policy discussion and I'm sure people will file bills that further that discussion," Baxley told NBC 6 South Florida Monday. "It'll spark efforts by the anti-gun community to advocate more bans on firearms, but I think there should be some careful scrutiny as to what actually makes people safer."

On Friday, 26 people, including 20 young children were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The 20-year-old gunman killed himself at the school, authorities said.

"I think it's very important that we recognize the entire country is shaken and grieving by the loss of innocent children, confronted by a horrible massacre," Baxley said. "We need to respect those victims, those families and be careful that we don't simply use them to advance other agendas."

Baxley said Connecticut has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, and suggested some of the discussion should be about mental health instead of gun control.

"We all would like to look at how do we keep firearms out of the hands of deranged people, and have serious discussions about how we treat mental illness," he said.

Baxley added that he agreed with some of President Obama's comments at a vigil in Newtown Sunday night.

"We can do nothing is not an answer, I agree," Baxley said. "Clearly we're all hurting and I can only imagine the hurt they're experiencing, but I think the president has asked a valuable question we must ask ourselves, 'what can we do to make our people safer?'"

He added that there needs to be better risk assessment and a look at whether our culture is desensitized. He also said that legal gun owners have in some instances helped prevent crime.

"There's a whole other school of thought that law-abiding people have prevented crime," he said.

Just last week, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced that Florida has the most active concealed weapons licenses in the country.

According to Putnam, Florida is expected to reach 1,000,000 concealed weapons licenses this week. Since the statewide licensing program began in 1987, the Department of Agriculture has received 2.34 million applications and issued 2.31 million licenses.

Of the licenses issued, only 0.3 percent have been revoked due to a crime, illegal fingerprints or legislative or clemency changes, Putnam said.

"As the statistics bear out, the responsible use of these licenses is overwhelmingly the rule," Putnam said. "Floridians have a great respect and appreciation for their 2nd Amendment rights."

Supporters of Florida's gun regulations point to violent crime statistics, which continue to decrease year after year. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, violent crime has dropped over 50 percent in the past 20 years.

There were 985 murders and 98,183 violent crimes in 2011, for a rate of 519.3 per 100,000 residents. The rate in 1991 was 1,198.7 per 100,000 residents, when there were 1,276 murders and 158,181 total violent crimes.

State Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, disagrees with the theory that more legal guns equals less crime. Earlier this year, Smith organized an independent task force to examine the Stand Your Ground law in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting.

"That's a recipe for disaster, all these concealed weapons," Smith said Monday. "We can at least try to curb the tide of so many guns throughout our state."
Smith said he thinks there need to be tougher restrictions on gun permits in Florida, among other measures.

"The mentality we've fostered in this state when it comes to guns is bad," he said. "Something should be done, we need to roll back some of the idiotic things we've done in the past."

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