Dan Raulerson and I disagree on many things about policy but we always have done so amicably. I have found him to be thoughtful, principled and willing to listen to ideas other than his own.
Raulerson represents Florida House District 58, which stretches from Plant City and eastern Hillsborough County into Temple Terrace. He is not generally prone to hyperbole.
So, I was taken aback when Raulerson said that in light of the attack last week in Washington that wounded five people, including Congressman Steve Scalise, “I think each one of those congressmen should be carrying a weapon. I think we all should be carrying a weapon.”
Raulerson’s remarks came during a forum at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club in response to a question about how the shooting impacted Florida and the nation.
I asked him Tuesday morning if he would say the same thing now if he had it to do over again. I got a one-word answer.
Then I got a lot more words. Raulerson isn’t backing down from what said because, and this is important, he honestly believes it’s the right thing to do.
“Here’s what I think people are misunderstanding,” he said. “I’m not suggesting we all walk around with 6-shooters in holsters and shoot everybody up.
“But had (Scalise) not been on the ball field in Washington, there wouldn’t have been two police officers there with guns. He was the only one with a security detail. Without those officers, it would have been a massacre. This isn’t something I’m shying away from. We need to open our eyes and understand we live in a world that is vastly different from 15 years ago.”
We had what I would call a respectful back-and-forth discussion. I made the point that just because someone owns a gun doesn’t mean they’ll be cool enough to handle it under pressure – even assuming they have taken and passed a licensed gun-safety course.
While they might have good intentions, someone in a panic could make a bad situation much worse.
“You’re absolutely right,” Raulerson said. “But we also can’t rely on the government to protect us.”
He singled out gun-free zones. He doesn’t like them.
“By the time police arrive in one of those places, the carnage has been done,” he said. “That has been proven time and time again.”
Raulerson said that since the conversation has been jump-started by his remarks, it would be a good idea to move it forward with a public forum – maybe back at Tiger Bay. Bring in people from both sides of the issue and debate, respectfully, how best to approach guns in the future.
Guns aren’t going away. While there are no reliable statistics to show how many guns are in the state, the latest report from the Florida Department of Agriculture showed there are 1.75 million concealed weapon or firearm permits.
“Absent taking guns away from everyone, I’m not sure what the answer is,” Raulerson said. “But we sure do have a lot of people getting shot.”