It’s safe to say that most of the recent mass shootings have been perpetrated by men with serious mental problems. Who in his right mind could turn automatic weapons on innocent people going about their business in malls, offices, schools and movie theaters?
So it was good news the other day when Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill to close a loophole in Florida gun laws that permitted some persons with mental illness to buy guns. But not everyone agrees with that statement. The governor’s office was flooded with almost 25,000 emails urging him to veto the bill.
Why would anyone want to allow mentally ill people to buy guns? Because the bill applies to people who have voluntarily submitted themselves to mental health exams or treatments. The old law allowed such people to buy guns once they are released from mental health institutions. The new law requires a judge and doctor to concur that an individual is no longer a danger to himself or others in order to get off the database of those prohibited from buying a gun.
To the surprise of many, even Marion Hammer wanted Scott to sign the bill. The longtime National Rifle Association lobbyist seldom gets behind any restriction on gun ownership, but even she could see the sensible justification for this one. In fact, she and her allies flooded the governor’s office with 200,000 emails asking Scott to sign the bill.
As was noted in our Village Square forum on guns held on May 22nd, (http://bit.ly/120hazK) the Second Amendment‘s guarantee of the right to bear arms is not voided by reasonable restrictions to protect public safety. No “right” is absolute; no “liberty” is open-ended. Preventing harm to others seems a reasonable limitation.
By David Klement
Executive Director, Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions
In the Privacy vs Security Debate posting of June 24 (http://on.fb.me/12dtvvH), I left off wondering what constitutional law attorney Barry Richard thinks about the latest revelations of government surveillance in the name of national security. I heard from him recently, and here’s what he said:
“I have concerns about the extent of surveillance, but based on what the administration has reported, the conduct appears to be legal. The surveillance is authorized by federal statute and was pursuant to a warrant. The question is whether Congress has gone too far.”
So, the ball is in Congress’ court. Congress has authorized the eavesdropping on telephone and internet communications by the National Security Agency, so no one in that body should act surprised at the revelations of its extent by leaker Edward Snowdon. Apparently, some in Congress think it has indeed gone too far. A bipartisan group of 26 senators asked NSA Director James Clapper on June 28 to answer a series of questions about the spying program authorized in Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
Among the questions: How long has NSA used the law to perform mass collection of Americans’ phone and internet communications? What specific instances of terrorist plots can NAS cite as having been thwarted by the secret eavesdropping operation that could not have been discovered by other means?
The Senate group’s leader, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the bulk collection authorized under Section 215 “raises serious civil liberties concerns and all but removes the public from an informed national security and civil liberty debate.”
I agree. The leaks exposing the extent of this operation have at least laid the groundwork for such a debate. As I ended my previous post on this issue, let’s have that debate. It’s crucial to a healthy democracy.
By David Klement
Executive Director, Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions
One day, hopefully soon, common sense is going to trump law-and-order zealotry as a strategy for developing criminal justice policy in Florida. I say that after reading Steve Bosquet’s column in the June 25 edition of the Tampa Bay Times headlined: “Prisoners released lacking even an ID.” (http://bit.ly/11FK08t)
Bosquet reported that every day, as many as 100 inmates of Florida’s prisons are released after completing their sentences. They leave with a change of clothes, a one-way bus ticket to the place from which they were sentenced, and $50. Many lack an indispensable item to transition into the real world: a photo ID, Bosquet reported. As a result, they become trapped “in a desperate spiral that leads to more crime and more prison time – at a huge cost to taxpayers.”
A bill that would help inmates track down birth certificates needed to get photo IDs failed to pass in the recent session of the Legislature, Bosquet reported. A similar bill was passed in 2011, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed it. And the reaction of the chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach: “…I’m not in any hurry to speed up people getting out of jail,” according to Bosquet’s article.
Is it any wonder that roughly one-third of inmates released upon completion of their sentences return to prison within three years – creating what Bosquet called “the revolving door of recidivism”? Without an ID, how is an ex-inmate going to open a bank account, apply for jobs, find housing, register for college or training?
Why does this dismal report give me hope for common sense? Because not everybody is as stuck in the law-and-order mentality of the ‘80s, as Rep. Gaetz seems to be. As I previously reported, some politicians and pundits get it on prison reform – and not just the traditional bleeding-heart liberals. Conservatives are taking a smarter approach to incarceration than “Lock-‘em-up-and-throw-away-the-key.” Even direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie came out recently for prison reform in an op-ed in the June 9 New York Times (http://nyti.ms/11Owafm). Similar views on the causes of recidivism came from our Feb. 6 forum titled “Does Incarceration Reduce Crime?” an initiative of the Project on Accountable Justice, of which the Institute is a partner (http://bit.ly/11pzF0a).
Hopefully, more policy-makers will join the common-sense bandwagon when the Project on Accountable Justice compiles the data that will provide guidance to the Legislature for new efforts at prison reform in 2014. Bosquet reported that Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, one of the Legislature’s most conservative members, will try again next year to help freed inmates obtain state IDs. As he quotes Baxley, “We’ve got to do more than just incarcerate people.”
Tallahassee–Dozens of friends and colleagues of Florida State University President and Law School Dean Emeritus Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte gathered in his namesake D’Alemberte Rotunda yesterday to share cake and memories on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
Some, like former Governor Reubin Askew, served with Sandy in the legislature. Retired Supreme Court justices and big name lawyers swapped Sandy stories with less well-known witnesses to the Atticus Finch qualities that Sandy brings to everything he does as a lawyer, a teacher, and a friend.
Sandy’s still bringin’ it on behalf of clients like Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio. An Eagle Scout and valedictorian at Tampa’s Armwood High School, Godinez-Samperio, now 26, has passed the Florida bar exam but can’t get licensed because his parents overstayed their visitors’ visa when they came here from Mexico when Jose was 9.
The Florida Board of Bar Examiners passed the buck to the Florida Supreme Court which passed the buck to the U.S. Department of Justice. This week, the DOJ took time out from criminalizing journalism to weigh in with a brief advising Florida’s high court to tell Godinez-Samperio to pound sand, citing a 1996 federal law barring undocumented immigrants from receiving “public benefits.”
Godinez-Samperio’s odds are looking about as good as the Spartans at Thermopaylae. But that’s when Sandy pours it on.
Before DOJ’s brief had made it into the court file, Sandy was mustering an army of bar leaders to petition the Court to “defend its prerogatives” under the Florida Constitution and issue the license.
It’s a classic Sandy argument….so elegant, so simple, so gutsy, that hardly anybody else would have even thought of it, let alone rounded up—practically overnight—a group of high-octane lawyers to pull for his cause as easily as a magician pulls rabbits from hats.
Like Bluto in National Lampoon’s Animal House, Sandy works best in hopeless situations. “Nothing is over until [Sandy] says it is.”
Ask anyone, “Who do you think is going to be the next Sandy D’Alemberte?” and behold the blank stares. Like Atticus Finch—and Bluto—Sandy is one of a kind.
———— Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
I do not tend to see the world the same way as Florida Senator Marco Rubio does. But we had the pleasure of having his recently departed General Counsel Len Collins at our last Dinner at the Square program on immigration. Collins was bright, articulate, exceptionally well-informed and incredibly pleasant. I’d double dog dare anyone to even try to dislike him.
And – given the substantive impediments to any kind of immigration reform and our desperate need to do something, I’ve left our discussion about immigration with the general sense that Senator Rubio is brave to step out and lead on it. Sure, he’s a politician so he’s trying to get a win out of it in the hispanic community, but I like anyone occupying a middle ground these days (for whatever reason) and there is considerable downside risk to him in what he did, since he needs to keep winning primaries to stay senator or be president. If you doubt that, check out the National Review cover skewering him for his support of reform.
So given my recent more personal experience with the Senator’s views (and staff), when I saw the spate of headlines drawing attention to his apparent faux pas demanding a nonexistent IRS commissioner to resign (the former commissioner’s term expired in November – and he was appointed by the Bush administration), I dug a little deeper.
Turns out there is currently an acting director, who served as deputy director in the chain of command where the problem took place. Rubio’s staff says that’s who he was referring to. Now, I don’t know if this was an error on the part of the senator, his staff (more likely) or simply a poorly written statement. But making a headline of it – as so many articles did – just seems small. Are we really going to spend our civic energy being petty?
This is a perfect example of why our tribalism is growing deeper and more impenetrable by the day.
If you like Rubio, you’re likely to give him a break. If you don’t like him, you’re liable to revel in his error. And we had media that did both. (Then there’s this accumulation of ewwww. Some pieces yammered on snottily about a typo.)
Meanwhile over at Fox News, they’re spinning yarns about just how high the order to audit Tea Party organizations originated (and I’m betting you can guess how high they think). Again, they have no intention of giving a President Obama the break they’d have given a President Bush for the identical situation.
Someone’s going to have to grow up. Until that happens, please do read – and listen – with caution.
If you didn’t catch Monday’s Fast Forward program you’re in luck! Here’s the Tallahassee Democrat’s livestream of the program! Program starts at about 10 minutes in, actual presentations start 20 minutes in.
One of the best perks of my job is that people are always sending me wonderful things. I get the best articles delivered to my inbox almost daily, by a wonderful group of citizens. I’m always flattered that they thought of the Village Square when they think of citizenship.
The perks of our Fast Forward Tallahassee program (next Monday 5.6, register now as we’re filling up fast) are a little different, but just as good. I get cool things sent to me about what’s new in our hometown. Since we’ve started our OUR TOWN series, you should know that I’ve loved Tallahassee more. Here’s the latest thing I love. If you don’t know already, we have BEST. That’s Bike-East-Shop-Tallahassee. It’s a partnership between cyclists and participating local businesses, who give discounts to “healthy customers who don’t clog up their parking lot with cars.”
THE VILLAGE SQUARE CONTINUES ‘OUR TOWN’ SERIES ‘Fast Forward’ Forum Focuses on New Projects, Business and Ideas
(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – April 30, 2013 – Hometowns with a “sense of place” are vibrant, engaged, growing and economically successful. They are places people want to live and raise families.
There are new reasons every day why this describes Tallahassee.
On Monday, May 6, The Village Square hosts “OUR TOWN: Fast Forward,” a spirited look at what’s new and what’s coming in Tallahassee. The program will be moderated by WFSU’s Tom Flanigan.
Co-sponsored by Knight Creative Communities Institute (KCCI), Leadership Tallahassee, and the Tallahassee Democrat, “Fast Forward” will be fast-paced. Six presentations follow a PechaKucha format (Japanese for “chit chat”) with a maximum of 20 slides that advance automatically after 20 seconds. There will be a question-and-answer segment, and a lightening round for the audience to share information about new projects, ideas, events and restaurants around town.
The evening will feature a presentation by Florida State University President Eric Barron on “Entrepreneurial FSU,” a discussion on what’s new on our college campuses presented by Town and Gown Project Director Mike Pate, and a look at the future of Lake Ella through the KCCI project “EllaVate.”
Also presenting are Ed Murray of NAI TALCOR on “Cutting Edge Business” in Tallahassee, Laurie Hartsfield of KCCI on “Our Creative Community,” and Joy Watkins of the Community Foundation of North Florida on “Our Nonprofit Community.” Lee Daniel of Visit Tallahassee with share the top ten reasons people will want to visit Tallahassee and Jay Revell of Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority will present on what’s new and coming downtown.
The program is part of The Village Square’s “Our Town” series, aimed at growing an informed and engaged community, and is made possible by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Fund at the Community Foundation of North Florida.
“Our Town: Fast Forward” will be held Monday, May 6 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church at 211 N. Monroe Street (enter at rear Calhoun Street entrance). It is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Participants are asked to make a reservation and to present their printed ticket at the door, and are invited to bring a take-out dinner or purchase dinner at one of the food trucks parked outside St. John’s from 5:00 to 5:45 pm.
Those who are unable to attend can watch the program livestream at www.Tallahassee.com or follow an online discussion on Twitter, hashtag #TDvsq. For more information, to see a full list of program participants, or to RSVP and print your ticket, go to www.tothevillagesquare.org or call 264-8785.
We’re excited about next Monday night’s Fast Forward program, the second in our new series about the latest, greatest, newest around town. If you missed last year’s you missed a lot. This year you’ll be able to catch FSU President Eric Barron on entrepreneurship at FSU, former Democrat publisher Mike Pate on the newest on our college campuses, Visit Tallahassee’s Lee Daniel on new reasons why people will want to visit Tallahassee, Jay Revell on “Fast Forward Downtown” and more… Check out the whole program and reserve your seat by clicking here. Bring your favorite take-out or grab dinner at one of the food trucks parked outside St. John’s. Oh and dessert and coffee is on us!