Republican legislators representing a district covering a historic Florida gun shop may not agree with Comcast's recent decision to stop selling ads to arms sellers, but they're not inclined to take legislative action against it.
As a very fervent supporter of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and one who will defend, till I have no breath left, the right for every American to own weapons, I don't like the Comcast policy, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, tells Sunshine State News. But Comcast is a private company, and if that's the policy they want to impose on their businesses across the country, more power to them.
Comcast announced a couple of weeks ago that it would be applying its nationwide policy to Florida, refusing to sell advertisements to companies that sell firearms. One of the most outspoken opponents of the move has been Lake County Property Appraiser Carey Baker, a former state senator who owns A.W. Peterson Gun Shop in Mount Dora, the nation's oldest continuously-operating gun shop.
On Friday, the Lake County Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution censuring Comcast and calling on the Florida Legislature to take action.
I bought my first gun at A.W. Peterson, but I don't see a legislative solution, Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, tells SSN. But if I were a Comcast subscriber and my Second Amendment rights were important to me, I'd go to DISH Network or find some other way to reach the same customers.
Baker's no enemy of private property or the free market, but the former Republican legislator previously suggested to SSN that legislative action was necessary because of the state-licensed monopoly Comcast has to provide cable to his district and to much of the rest of Florida.
They're state-franchised, there is no other cable operator, so I've essentially been shut out of affordable TV advertisement, Baker explained, adding that he's advertised with the company for some 20 years.
Those concerns are echoed by Andrew Molchan, director of the Professional Gun Retailers Association (PGRA) and of the National Association of Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers (NAFLFD).
[Comcast is] using legal public property for their partisan political-philosophical views, he tells SSN. If [selling firearms] were illegal, it'd be one thing, but this is a specifically constitutional right.
Next week are they going to deny someone services because they sing in the choir at church? Where does it stop when you bring your political agenda into a commercial, private enterprise? asks Marion Hammer, first female president of the National Rifle Association and the organization's registered Tallahassee lobbyist.
Both Hays and Nelson tell SSN they're sensitive to the unique dynamics surrounding a private corporation given a state-licensed monopoly over the provision of services, but they're worried any new legislation might end up being a cure worse than the disease.
It's a slippery slope, Nelson warns. What else do you [dictate] what they should allow or not allow in their advertisements?
I'm a business owner myself, and I don't want the government telling me what I have to do and what I can't do, Hays, a retired dentist, concurs. "The way I register my disappointment with companies that behave in manners that I don't approve of is I take my business elsewhere. Americans have the economic power to influence decisions, if only they would exercise it.
Molchan says his trade association won't be standing by quietly. With less than a week of the 2013 legislative session left to go, no legal remedy may be coming soon, but there's always next year.
Certainly we're going to be writing letters to the appropriate people in Tallahassee and presenting our side of the argument, he vows. The political situation is fluid: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, depending on a multitude of circumstances; but we will complain, lobby, and advocate for our side of the story.
The NRA for its parts lobbies on behalf of individual gun owners, not the firearms industry, so Hammer was less certain what action her client would be taking.
I don't have a crystal ball, so I don't know what I'll be lobbying for next year, she says. If I were a gun dealer who had been denied access and singled out, realizing that [Comcast has] been given a monopoly, I think I'd be talking to my government that's supposed to represent and look out for the individual.
Hopefully the people discriminating in this area will see the error of their ways, and this could all go away by next year.
Reach Eric Giunta at email@example.com or at (954) 235-9116.