Florida GOP Legislators Not Inclined to Take Action Against Comcast Anti-Gun Discrimination

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: April 30, 2013 3:55 AM
Bryan Nelson and Alan Hays

Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, left, and Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, right

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 egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116. 

Comments (6)

Jose Rosario
11:40PM MAY 2ND 2013
I am a subscriber to your cable company, but I am thinking of changing. First you will not put gun adds on your network . then you put former current TV and now al-sharia television on your network which is total garbage. You will not put the blaze television network on your cable system meanwhile we have to watch MSNBC and CNN and the only conservative show is fox. We want a Libertarian points of view and the blaze television offers that. If you do not change your policy's in the coming months I and many of my colleagues will leave to dish network.
Salvador Almedia
11:04AM MAY 2ND 2013
My brother is a lineman for Comcast and has had people come out of their homes with guns threatening him when he is on a disconnect for nonpayment call.
Roger Bennett
1:09AM MAY 1ST 2013
Yet another enlightening demonstration of the hypocrisy permeating the so-called "conservative" party, now dominated by neoconservatives, evangelists, and other folks who are neither conservative or appreciative of the liberties that a true democratic republic safeguards. The right wing nuts continue to reveal their true nature...
11:54AM APR 30TH 2013
Why not just do away with the "government monopoly" & let some other cable provider compete for the services?
7:27AM APR 30TH 2013
What I see that is sad here is the fact that someone even considered legislation action against Comcast. It's their right to run their business however they see fit. Any business should be able to do as they please for such things as this. Likewise, if a business chooses to NOT advertise a "Planned Parenthood" ad, they should be able to. Keep the government out of our business an personal lives.
11:48AM APR 30TH 2013
Yes, like forcing women to undertake medically unnecessary expensive state-mandated procedures that their doctors say aren't needed . . . . . or doesn't that meet your political "test" . . . .

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