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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019
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Carlton: How guns changed everything in Florida (Or, why you should never hit your horn)

A lesson is becoming evident regarding guns and Florida:

The rules are gone. There are officially no rules.

The way the world once worked, you could righteously hit your horn because someone cut you off in traffic. You could ask a person to turn off his cell phone in a movie theater. You could have a discussion with a stranger at a neighborhood park on a Sunday about whether or not a kid should be allowed to skateboard by the basketball court.

You could even have a disagreement over someone parking in a handicap spot at a convenience store.

And chances were, nobody would end up dying.

This is no longer a given. Here in Florida, when there is a conflict between strangers, there is a chance someone will have a gun. And that it will change everything.

Every day seems to bring a story more unbelievable than the last, and so we recently had this one: In Tampa, two strangers got into it on Facebook over whether convicted felons should be allowed to vote — no surprise, given the current hyper-political climate. Words were exchanged and things got seriously ugly.

And then one guy who said he felt threatened by what the other guy was saying went over to his house with two guns and shot him in the thigh and the buttocks. The only good news being that at least this time, nobody died.

"I ruined my life over this," Brian Sebring, the man who did the shooting, told the Times’ Anastasia Dawson. "Now my mother is too afraid to leave the house, my sons are afraid to walk to school or church, all because of some keyboard gangsters." And, I would add, because there were guns.

Here is where I say what I say every time someone accuses me of trying to drive a stake through the heart of the Second Amendment: I am all for responsible gun ownership. I’m also for sensible legislation aimed at balancing gun rights with gun safety.

But shouldn’t we also be against laws that make the irresponsible handling of guns that much easier?

When stand your ground and open carry laws pushed by the National Rifle Association were being debated, some law enforcement officers and prosecutors worried about the potential fallout. They worried stand your ground could empower people to shoot first and ask questions later. (Turns out they were right.) They worried a law to let people carry their weapons out in the open — which thankfully has not passed, but give the NRA a minute — could lead to chaos.

When I was growing up in Miami, my parents told us that if someone ever tried to rob you, you hand over your wallet or your purse. (It was Miami. You talked about these things.) The idea was that no material thing was worth getting hurt or killed. Even being right — as in, this belongs to me, not to you — is not worth dying for.

Maybe now parents have to teach kids to never honk in traffic or call someone out for rude behavior, even if they’re right. Because people are crazy. And often also armed.

When someone has a gun and is not particularly worried about using it responsibly, it’s like an interaction between a pedestrian crossing the street and a car that does not stop.

Doesn’t matter who was in the right, the car or the person.

The car always wins.

The gun always wins.

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