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April 11 Hot Topics, 2018 Legislative Session-Gun Safety and Schools

Dean Johnson  | Published on 4/11/2018

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) said he’ll keep filing gun-safety bills in the Florida Legislature till the cows come home. Patti Brigham, first vice-president of the state League of Women Voters, said the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence will keep advocating for background checks, assault-weapon bans and closing private-seller loopholes. Sen. David Simmons (R-Longwood) said he votes his conscience on gun control and takes no money from the NRA. And Apopka High School junior JC Martinez said, plainly, “enough.”

Martinez, 17, was guest speaker at Wednesday’s LWVOC Hot Topics program, “The 2018 Legislature and School Safety.” He organized the March 14 walkout at his school, part of a statewide student mission to focus on school safety after the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
He said that although people kept saying “enough” after the mass killings at Newtown and Pulse, “Now, it’s enough talk and more action.” He wondered why the U.S. could enact plane-safety legislation after 9/11 but has not acted on school safety, nightclub safety or church safety.
We need “common-sense gun laws,” he said.

“We’re not trying to take people’s guns away,” Brigham said, noting that assault weapons designed for military and police use don’t belong in the hands of the public.
SB7026, called the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott this year. One of its components is establishment of the Guardian Program, a voluntary and optional plan to arm some school personnel. Already, Brigham said, counties have opted out of the program, including Broward County, where the Stoneman Douglas school is located.

Simmons said he voted for the bill on behalf of rural districts because they are not as accessible to law-enforcement agencies and would benefit from Guardian. Smith said he did not vote for the bill because neither he nor constituents he met with were in favor of Guardian. And somehow, he added, the Legislature found $67 million that “just fell out of the sky” to fund the training and arming of teachers. He hoped that counties opting out could claim some of that $67 million for other measures, such as hiring resource officers.

Smith had another bone to pick with SB7026: that the bill designated $1 million for a Parkland memorial. He doesn’t begrudge the funds, just that his attempts to get state money for a Pulse memorial in Orlando have been shot down. “Also, state mental health funding went up after Parkland, and down after Pulse…How can we pick and choose that way?”
However, Smith was happy to get $3 million in funding for the PTSD clinic at UCF. That clinic had been established to aid military veterans but is now open to survivors of mass shootings and public-safety personnel who served them.

Let’s give JC Martinez the final word. He has already registered to vote and said that he and students at other schools are talking about “Never Again” voting days, an effort to get Floridians registered and to get out the vote.