Florida taxpayers are helping subsidize three industries that have been blamed for recent mass shootings: violent movies, bloody video games and high-powered assault weapons.
Miami Herald state political reporter Toluse Olorunnipa writes that in 2012 the Florida Legislature gave more than $10 million dollars worth of economic incentives to those three industries in order to lure jobs to the state while lawmakers cut funding to mental health programs.
In South Florida, that meant millions of fewer dollars for mentally ill prisoners, while movie-maker Michael Bay received $4.2 million in tax breaks to produce Pain & Gain, an action film about South Beach bodybuilders who become violent criminals.
The Legislature and powerful business groups are pushing to boost the state’s manufacturing industry, a sector that includes makers of military-style weapons.
At least three gun makers have been on the receiving end of lucrative tax break deals aimed at spurring job creation.
"The movie issue is kind of interesting because a lot of the lawmakers who are defending the gun rights are going after the movies, but maybe haven't realized that Florida is actually subsidizing a lot of these movies,” Toluse said in an interview with WLRN. “So, it will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether there's any move to clamp down on any of these incentives moving forward."
Meanwhile, corporations involved in producing 3 of the most popular first-person shooter games, Medal of Honor, Call of Duty and Halo, got taxpayer benefits from the state. Olorunnipa writes that last year "about $48 million was spent on video game companies operating in Florida." However, a lot of that money went to making non-violent games.
One thing both sides of the debate can agree on, for the most part, is that any viable plan to prevent future mass shootings must deal with mental health.
Last year, the Florida Senate pitched a 25 percent cut to mental health and drug abuse funding proposing to slash the services by $87 million to help balance a tight budget. The House was able to temper what would have been the state’s largest-ever reduction in mental health spending, but further damage hit the budget when it reached the governor’s desk.
Scott vetoed more than $5.6 million in spending for mental health programs in different parts of the state, striking down funding for healthcare providers like Seminole Behavioral Healthcare in Sanford.
Scott is still deciding whether to accept federal money for an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a move that would provide mental health coverage for hundreds of thousands of uninsured.
According to Olorunnipa, Florida ranks 49th in mental health funding nationwide and first in gun ownership.