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Florida Senate President Rejects Session to Review Gun Law

Lloyd Dunkelberger of HT Politics reported: While protestors continued to occupy the first floor of the Capitol today, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz said he does not see any reason to call a special session to address some of the issues raised by the activists following the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial.

“I stand with Gov. Scott and I stand with Speaker Weatherford,” Gaetz said, referring to the two other state leaders who have rejected a call for a special session.

The protestors want lawmakers to use the special session to review the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law, racial profiling and the disciplinary treatment of minority youth in Florida schools. The protest began shortly after a jury found Zimmerman not guilty of shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old.

But Gaetz, R-Niceville, who has the power to call a special session by joint agreement with the House speaker, said no one has advanced any specific plans for a session.

“I think you call a special session of the Legislature when you have a landing zone that is agreed upon on an issue,” Gaetz said. “You don’t call a special session, I don t think, and just bring 160 politicians to town and just turn them loose and hope it all works out. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”

He also noted no legislation has thus far been filed. “I’m not sure what a special session would accomplish,” he said.

The Second Amendment guarantees a “right to keep and bear arms” and, whatever those words meant at the time the Amendment was adopted in 1791, the Supreme Court has interpreted them to protect a personal right to have a gun for self-defense. It did that in the 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, a decision that applied only to the federal enclave of Washington, D.C. But that right was extended to the state and local level in a second decision, in the 2010 case of McDonald v. Chicago.

So far, though, one cannot say with confidence that the Supreme Court has provided constitutional protection for carrying a gun outside the home, for any purpose. Gun rights advocates strongly believe that, because the Supreme Court has said that the Second Amendment right was “fundamental” to personal liberty, that it surely extends to self-defense away from the home.

Lower courts – with one very notable exception – have been somewhat wary of that argument and have said that they would prefer to wait for further guidance from the Supreme Court. The problem is that the Supreme Court, so far, has not been willing to say anything further on the point.

As the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit remarked in a ruling last December: “The Supreme Court has not yet addressed whether the Second Amendment creates a right of self-defense outside the home.” In the past three years, the Justices have had a half-dozen chances to take up that issue, but have chosen each time to deny review. They have done so without explanation.

Most recently, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case of Kachalsky v. Cacase, a Second Amendment challenge to a New York law that permits possession of a handgun outside the home only if one can show “proper cause” to do so. Upholding that law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said the scope of gun rights outside the home had not yet been settled by the Supreme Court.

The one important exception to the caution displayed by the lower courts on the constitutional scope of gun rights beyond the home was the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Even while conceding that it was an open issue for the Supreme Court, that appeals court went ahead and extended the reading of the Second Amendment to include a right to have a concealed gun in public. Self-defense, it said, was no less important in public than in the home.

That decision came in the case of Moore v. Madigan. In response to that ruling, the Illinois legislature passed a new concealed carry law – making Illinois the last state to join the ranks of those with concealed carry statutes.

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