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Editorial cartoon (2/28/2018)

So Florida Gov. Rick Scott thinks that FBI Director Christopher Wray ought to step down because his agents dropped the ball in passing on information about school shooter Nikolas Cruz weeks before the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine's Day.

Actually, if I had my way Scott and his enablers in the Florida Legislature would be indicted as accessories to mayhem for their reckless dismissal of sensible gun laws that could have helped protect the kids and their teachers. Instead, he and the GOP-controlled Legislature have been passing legislation that makes it easier to buy and use guns.

It was clever of Scott to deflect his own culpability by contending that the real villain was the FBI director in Washington, D.C. — one of the favorite targets of Scott's hero, Donald Trump. Gov. Scott is thinking about running for the U.S. Senate against one of Congress' most prominent gun control advocates, Sen. Bill Nelson. And Trump has promised his full support. It wasn't for nothing, after all, that Trump saw to it that Florida's coastline was exempted from the Interior Department's plan to allow offshore oil drilling on every other coastline. Wouldn't want to hurt Scott's chances, after all.

But shady dealings are part of Scott's DNA. That he became governor of Florida is an anomaly in itself. He was the CEO of Columbia/HCA when the health care giant was charged with bilking Medicare out of $1.7 billion, the largest fraud in history. Under Scott's tutelage, the corporation billed Medicare for appointments that never occurred and for providing care that never took place.

One might think that in Florida, of all places, where millions of retirees are on Medicare, there might have been some reluctance to trust this corporate miscreant with the reins of state government, but apparently not.

I nearly threw up when I saw Rick Scott standing next to the Broward County sheriff and the Parkland School District's superintendent as they expressed their sorrow over what had just happened because we can't get a handle on facing up to the nation's out-of-control lust for guns.

It's politicians like Scott, congressional leaders like Paul Ryan, state legislators like Wisconsin's Robin Vos and his Republican colleagues Scott Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel who all refuse to admit that we have a real problem here. Yes, shooters are likely to have mental problems, but how do they explain why it is that every other civilized country doesn't come close to our gun deaths? Don't they have mentally ill people, too?

The state legislative leadership and Walker have had no problem this month skipping hearings and short-circuiting the normal process to get their favorite legislation passed. But when last week they were asked to take time to consider improving background checks in the state, suddenly that wasn't possible in such a "short time."

While it was sickening to watch so many of our political leaders once again cower from meaningful action, it was heart-rending to watch students across the country mobilize to demand action. The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High were eloquent as they testified at the state's capitol. If adults refuse to bring these gutless politicians to account, maybe the kids will succeed where we can't. Eventually, they have to.

And then there are the teachers. Three of them died protecting their students on Valentine's Day. You couldn't help but tear up when the high-schoolers told of the adults' incredible sacrifice. The New York Times last week wondered if our teachers today need to take on yet another role — serving as student shields against lunatics armed with weapons that are meant for war-time battlefields.

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Wisconsin's Schimel believes that everything would be better if only teachers were allowed to carry guns in school, standing at the ready to engage in a shooting spree with a mad person wielding an AR-15.

Yes, these teachers are the people that Republicans like Schimel decided were being paid too well, that their unions needed to be destroyed and they needed to fork over a significant amount of their wages to pay more for their health care and pensions, plus be limited to 2 percent pay increases, if lucky.

The bottom line is that there are too many Rick Scotts in control, including here in Wisconsin. Let's be honest: It won't get any better until the voters get rid of them.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. and on Twitter @DaveZweifel. Zweifel is the co-author, along with John Nichols, of the new book "The Capital Times: A Proudly Radical Newspaper's Century Long Fight for Justice and Peace," published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. It's available on the Historical Society Press website, and at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.