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Politics / Issues

Florida Democratic leaders urge their Republican counterparts to do more to address gun violence

Diego Esquivel, left, and Linda Klaasson comfort each other as they gather to honor the victims killed in Tuesday's shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Desperation turned to heart-wrenching sorrow for families of grade schoolers killed after an 18-year-old gunman barricaded himself in their Texas classroom and began shooting, killing multiple grade schoolers and their two teachers.
Jae C. Hong
/
AP
Diego Esquivel, left, and Linda Klaasson comfort each other as they gather to honor the victims killed in Tuesday's shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Desperation turned to heart-wrenching sorrow for families of grade schoolers killed after an 18-year-old gunman barricaded himself in their Texas classroom and began shooting, killing multiple grade schoolers and their two teachers.

Said Rep. Dottie Joseph: “This is not a game, this is not a joke. People are dying. Thoughts and prayers are nice, but faith without works, is dead."

Florida Democrats want the state’s Republican leaders to do more to address gun violence. The most recent mass shooting at a Texas elementary school coupled with a racially-motivated killing at a Buffalo supermarket is reigniting a long-simmering battle over how ad whether to limit gun possession.

After 2018’s Valentine’s Day killing at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida lawmakers sprang into action—effectively deputizing certain administrators and teachers to carry guns on campus, allowing more armed security, pouring millions into mental health and raising the age of possession of a rifle from 18 to 21. Texas has long had a similar school guardian program, but that wasn’t enough to stop an 18-year-old from entering an elementary school and killing young children along with two teachers.

Republicans often state a“good guy with a gun can counter a bad guy with a gun," and Democratic state Rep. Dottie Joseph pointed out the failure of that idea in Texas and in Buffalo, where the officers and people providing security couldn’t stop the shooters.

“This is not a game, this is not a joke. People are dying. Thoughts and prayers are nice, but faith without works, is dead," she said.

For years, Florida Democrats have filed bills to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Those measures have gone nowhere. The state has increased the number of mental health providers in schools, but it’s still not at recommended levels.

“I was there in Parkland at the Mariott hotel when people were waiting to hear the news. Eight hours, nine hours after this happened," said Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, who was mayor of Parkland at the time of the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.

"Slowly, people were leaving and there were families still there. You could hear the blood-curdling screams of parents being told their children weren’t coming home," she said.

The response from state Republicans has been more muted, from offers of thoughts and prayers to condolences to statements from strong pro-gun supporters like Rep. Randy Fine.

“I have news for the embarrassment that claims to be our President," Fine said in a tweet, reacting to statements by President Joe Biden who called for tougher gun control laws.

"Try to take our guns and you’ll learn why the Second Amendment was written in the first place."

The Texas and Buffalo killings come as Second Amendment groups press state Republicans and Gov. Ron DeSantis to approve what’s called constitutional carry—allowing anyone to openly carry a gun without a permit. DeSantis has promised to sign such legislation if it reaches his desk. The Texas and Buffalo shootings have Second Amendment and gun-control advocates gearing up for more battles.

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