Gov. Rick Scott appears nearly bulletproof right now in the eyes of the National Rifle Association.
That assessment comes as the NRA notes that more pro-gun bills have been signed into law in the past four years than during any other recent single gubernatorial term. The organization sent a message to members applauding Scott for setting the record.
Since taking office in 2011, Scott has signed into law 12 gun-related measures backed by the NRA. That is nine more than former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist approved while enjoying an equally Republican-dominated Legislature between 2007 and 2010.
Crist is now running for the Democratic nomination to face Scott in the November elections.
The total number of Scott’s signings remains two fewer than those inked by former Gov. Jeb Bush during his eight years in office.
“Governor Scott supports the Second Amendment, and works every day to ensure Florida families are kept safe,” spokesman John Tupps said in an email, adding that the state’s crime rate is at at 43-year low.
The bills signed by Scott have ranged from the highly contentious, such as the “docs vs. glocks” law in 2011 that has been on hold since being thrown out by a federal judge in 2012, to less controversial laws that reduced the fees for a new concealed carry weapon license and allowed tax collectors’ offices to handle concealed-weapon license applications.
“The bills that Gov. Scott has signed will make and have made an enormous difference,” said Marion Hammer, the powerful lobbyist for the NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida. “These laws will have major impact on law abiding gun owners.”
She wasn’t as praiseworthy of the more politically flexible Crist, who left office with an “A” rating by the NRA and campaigned in 2010 for the U.S. Senate claiming to have “never wavered in his support for the Second Amendment.”
Crist earned the “profound appreciation” of the NRA in May 2009 for vetoing the Legislature’s plan to sweep $6 million from the Concealed Weapons and Firearms Licensing Trust Fund to patch a hole in the state budget. He also won praise when signing legislation to allow concealed weapons permit-holders to keep their guns in their vehicles while at work and by appointing NRA-supported judges Charles Canady and Ricky Polston to the state Supreme Court.
But Hammer alluded to Crist being less than supportive as “critically important bills” were discussed outside of committee meetings while he was still governor.
A spokesman for Crist said Wednesday that the former governor maintains his belief in the Second Amendment, but favors “sensible gun safety steps” to keep communities and children safe.
“For example, he believes we should get military-style assault weapons and high-capacity clips off the streets and institute tougher background checks to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands,” Kevin Cate, a spokesman for Crist, responded in an email.
The increase in gun-friendly bills becoming law comes as more Floridians are registered gun owners.
As of May 31, there were 1.27 million concealed-weapon or firearm licenses issued in Florida, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The state went over the 1 million mark in Dec. 2012, becoming the first state in the nation to surpass that figure.
And the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted 869,457 background checks on firearm purchases in 2013. The annual number of checks grew from 406,370 in 2007, when Crist took office, to 606,655 in 2011, Scott’s first year in office.