The parents of Trayvon Martin attended a somber, angry forum on Capitol Hill yesterday about racial profiling and discriminatory stand-your-ground laws. Much of that terrain has been well-covered in recent weeks, but an interesting portion of the hearing focused directly on gun control—and how Florida’s loose gun restrictions helped facilitate George Zimmerman’s vigilantism.
Despite having an arrest record and a history of violence, Zimmerman was allowed to purchase a gun and obtain a concealed carry permit. And even if he were to be arrested tomorrow and charged with murder, he would still likely be able to obtain a gun permit the day he eventually walked out of prison.
In Florida, gun permits are issued by the Department of Agriculture. All one has to do is visit their website—FreshFromFlorida.com—and apply. Providing your Social Security number is optional, and they’ll just mail you a permit—no need to actually see anyone or provide identification. And it's apparently easy for people convicted of a crime to obtain gun permits, even though it's technically not allowed--1,400 convicted felons, at least, are said to have concealed carry permits in Florida today, though it’s hard to know for sure since the state doesn’t make the permit list public.
For decades now, the National Rifle Association has used Florida as a petri dish for extreme measures that make getting firearms easy—and the state has some of the loosest laws in the country.
At yesterday’s hearing, Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, drew a direct line between the state’s gun laws and Trayvon Martin’s death:
The results of Florida’s relentless pandering to the NRA have been year after year of carnage. Since Florida enacted the NRA’s concealed weapons law more than two decades ago, Florida has led the nation in violent crime—consistently ranking in the top five every year for states with the worst violent crime rates in America.The shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is a heartbreaking tragedy. But it is not a surprise that it happened in Florida. This is what happens in the NRA’s armed utopia. George Zimmerman is the embodiment of the gun lobby and its dark vision for America.
George Zimmerman is the NRA.
Now the NRA wants to export its Florida model nationwide. The NRA has made it clear that its vision is of an America like Florida, a nation where it’s easy for dangerous people to get, carry and use guns on our streets, parks and playgrounds.
Gross noted that the NRA is currently backing two US Senate bills, introduced after the Martin shooting, which would vastly expand concealed carry in the United States—the measures would allow residents of states like Florida with lax gun laws to travel to other states and still have their concealed carry permit respected as valid.