Charles McBurney for judge? No way, no how, says the National Rifle Association.
The Jacksonville Republican and attorney, who served as the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is one of the six finalists to become a circuit judge in the state’s 4th Judicial Circuit, which covers Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.
McBurney was one of 33 people to apply for two circuit judgeships in the Jacksonville-based 4th Judicial Circuit last year. The previous circuit judges could no longer serve due to mandatory retirement requirements.
McBurney’s time as House Judiciary Chair gave him name recognition and notoriety in the Florida Legislature, but the country’s largest pro-gun group says he's not fit to be a judge anywhere due to some of his actions as a state lawmaker.
In an email sent to members over the weekend, the NRA says McBurney didn't adhere to the best practices of a public official because he refused to hold a hearing on the state’s controversial “Burden of Proof” proposal during the 2016 regular legislative session.
The bill, if passed, would have shifted the burden of proof in Stand Your Ground cases to the prosecutor, who would have had to prove, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” whether a defendant could be granted immunity at a pretrial hearing in order to disprove a claim of self-defense immunity.
Personal gain, not the will of the people, the NRA says, is what motivated McBurney to scrub the legislation.
“As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Charles McBurney arrogantly put his blind ambition to become judge ahead of your constitutional right of self-defense and your basic fundamental right to the presumption of innocence,” wrote past president and current NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer.
The NRA goes on to say McBurney refused to hear the “Burden of Proof” bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.
McBurney’s refusal to hear the bill, which had already passed in the Senate, was essentially a death sentence to the bill, since it needs to be heard in several committees before it can come to the House floor for a vote.
The legislative session came and went with no Burden of Proof measure signed, but the NRA hasn't forgotten.
The group says McBurney, a former prosecutor, was essentially driven by the need to impress anti-gun prosecutors, who the NRA says could help him become judge.
It's just another example of “political pandering,” the group argues.
“McBurney traded your rights for his own personal gain,” they wrote.
The group also linked to an article which says McBurney got a Florida Highway Patrol officer fired after he filed a complaint after getting a ticket for driving without proof of insurance. The officer was later reinstated.
McBurney has come a long way in the process to become judge. Gov. Rick Scott still has yet to appoint anyone for the position, but McBurney is scheduled to meet with the governor Thursday to be interviewed for the position.
The NRA urged its members to email Scott, telling him McBurney is unfit to be a judge.
“It's time to let Chairman McBurney know that protecting the constitutional rights of the people should come before his personal desire to become judge,” Hammer wrote.
McBurney told Sunshine State News he was disappointed by the email blast, but stood firm on his position in regards to the bill.
"I've supported the NRA position for 9 years in the legislature," he told SSN, recalling his support of other bills like open carry and campus carry during recent legislative sessions. "I've supported each bill the NRA has had, to my recollection."
But McBurney admitted he did not agree with passing the Burden of Proof proposal.
"On this one bill, Ms. Hammer and I had a disagreement," he told SSN. "We had policy differences. To me this bill would victimize victims...There's no other state in the country that shifts the burden of proof [this] way....I did the best I could for the people I represent."