by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Florida, which calls itself “The Sunshine State,” and is one of the most popular family vacation destinations, may soon be far less family friendly. State lawmakers are considering giving gun owners with concealed carry permits the right to openly carry their firearms in public places, even allowing them to hold their guns in their hands as they walk around. [“Open-carry law would create anxiety, not safety: Editorial,” Orlando Sentinel, Oct. 15. 2015.]
With Disney World, Universal Studios, miles of pristine sand beaches, and world-class shopping and dining, Florida is the ultimate vacation destination for many families in the United States and around the world. But imagine going on vacation with your kids and loved ones to a place where any stranger standing inches from you in line, or just passing by on the street, could be displaying or handling a deadly weapon.
That’s the message that MomsRising, an organization that advocates for sensible gun regulation, MomsRising is circulating. The group is urging families to sign a petition telling – or rather warning – the Florida Commission on Tourism that families do not want to vacation in a state where people are openly carrying their weapons.
“The open carrying of firearms serves little purpose but to intimidate the public, which is why even major retailers like Starbucks and Target don’t want guns in their stores,” [“7 Companies That Don’t Want Guns In Their Stores,” Andrew Lord, Huffington Post, July 17, 2015] the organization stated in a message to supporters. “Why would anyone want to feel intimidated, especially while on vacation?”
Indeed, open carry is just another way for the gun lobby (which is really the gun manufacturers) to roll back gun safety laws. But studies have demonstrated the “weapons effect,” where the mere presence of firearms encourages aggressive behavior. [“Mere sight of a gun makes police – and public – more aggressive, experts say,” Andrew Yuhas, The Guardian, Aug. 5, 2015.] This was certainly the case for a family Tennessee now mourning the loss of their 19-year old at Tennesee State University over a dice game (three female students just passing by were also shot). [Fatal Tenn. campus shooting started over dice game, USA Today, Oct. 23, 2015]
“Open carry would make the presence of firearms that much more visible in public, raising the likelihood of dangerous outcomes. Who wants that on vacation?,” says MomsRising, an organization that supports sensible gun regulation.
“No family wants to be intimidated and feel at risk of gun violence, especially when we are supposed to be relaxing and having fun. Tell the Florida Commission on Tourism that families do not want to vacation in a state where people are openly carrying their weapons!”
With more than 97 million people visiting the state, bringing $72 billion a year to the economy, the tourism sector is a powerful voice in Florida and can influence state policy on gun safety. The Florida Commission on Tourism and other leaders in the tourism industry will not like to hear that allowing the open carry of firearms may lead people to start looking elsewhere for that perfect family vacation.
MomsRising.org is urging people to sign their petition and will deliver the message and your signature to the Florida Commission on Tourism, as well as to Disney World, Universal Studios, regional tourism boards, and other key members of the Florida tourism community.
“Tell the Florida Commission on Tourism to oppose open carry in the Sunshine State, because families do not want to vacation in a state where people are openly carrying their weapons!”
“Stopping open carry in Florida will help keep this terrible idea from becoming law in other states that also rely on tourism dollars. Together, we are a strong voice for safer families and communities,” stated MomsRising.org.
Let’s not forget that Florida was the birthplace of Stand Your Ground, giving anyone with a gun a license to kill and later claim they feared for their life, as was the case for a self-appointed neighborhood watch who was acquitted in the murder of black teen Trayvon Martin. After being adopted in Florida, ‘Stand Your Ground,’ written by ALEC’s gun manufacturer members, was exported to 22 other states.
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