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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Tom Jackson Columns

Jackson: Weatherford stands ground on leadership

Those who decried the law even as it was being fed through the sausage maker said there would be trouble some day. Oh, yes they did. It was too extreme and too hasty and its sweep was too broad for the otherwise workable problem it sought to fix. Innocents would die, they said.

The majority shrugged off the rattling critics as just so many empty carts, extremist nuts standing in the way of a better, safer society. Brandishing an unbeatable upper hand, the majority worked its hasty will, and an eager chief executive signed it, turning this worrisome, ill-considered, slapped-together nightmare from the all-night butcher shop into our new reality.

And now, only now, only now, have we begun to appreciate the opposition’s foresight. There’s an awful, horrible, scary, thunderous high-speed train wreck headed around the corner. Once again, opponents are rallying.

Astonishingly, even a smattering of the law’s original supporters are belatedly admitting the extremists were, at least in part, correct: Innocents will die. But these heretics are the few, the rare exceptions not bought off by special-interest lobbyists oozing cash. The rest tell us the law is fine just as it is; we just need to work out the kinks that have recently proved troublesome. Besides, they tell us, it’s the law of the land. Deal with it, they say. Move on.

But enough about ObamaCare.

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Back here in the reasonable world, things are refreshingly different.

The “stand your ground” law adopted despite spirited — if severely limited ­— opposition lately has been retargeted for rebuke given its tangential role in last year’s shooting death in Sanford of teenager Trayvon Martin and the acquittal last month of trigger man George Zimmerman.

But rather than thumb their noses (as our Washington betters in similar circumstances have), some of our state’s most devoutly conservative Republican leaders have lately acknowledged the importance of the hubbub, with Wesley Chapel’s Will Weatherford — speaker of the state House of Representatives — not just among them, but leading them.

Weatherford has announced plans to summon a group of legislators this fall to hear the public’s assessment of how “stand your ground” is working, ostensibly as a precursor to diving back in.

This does not mean that Weatherford himself is for repeal, or even substantial tweaking. “I have strong opinions on the matter as do most people,” he wrote during an email exchange Monday night. “However, we should never be scared of a good discussion about our Second Amendment rights or our ability to protect ourselves. This issue is worthy of an old fashioned legislative debate!”

Amen to all that.

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We wrote this a few weeks back, before demonstrators (with no jobs to go to?) and other opportunistic peddlers of division invaded Gov. Rick Scott’s office: “Let’s have that scrutiny. Defenders of the law should invite it, understanding there is no statute that cannot be improved by studying its experience in the marketplace.”

Subsequently, Weatherford said, “Our evaluations of (the law’s) effectiveness should be guided by objective information, not by political expediency.” It is to Weatherford’s credit that he is willing to shed sunlight on a controversial law.

But it’s also worth noting that ­— in absolute contrast to a certain national health care makeover — Florida’s “stand your ground” law was passed in coolly reflective times after extensive debate and with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. Moreover, the law still polls extraordinarily well. Even so, the state’s elected Republicans are willing to say, “Pop the hood, OK? Let’s have another look.”

This is what we call leadership. You could look it up.

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