On Friday, March 9, 2018 Governor Rick Scott of Florida signed into law the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act”. This is a state level gun control bill passed by the Florida state legislature on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 in reaction to the February 14, 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida which took the lives of 17 people including 14 students and three staff.
The New York City and Orlando, Florida chapters of Gays Against Guns are deeply disturbed by the passage of this bill. We view it as a dishonest compromise which, at its core, contains an unacceptable and dangerous concession to the N.R.A. and gun lobby: the arming of school staff.
This part of the bill gives the NRA and gun lobby another victory and places them closer to their long coveted goal of “guns everywhere”. This is simply unacceptable, and puts the students in Florida schools at risk, and places an additional, and onerous burden on the teachers which detracts from their primary responsibility: education.
Additionally, we are alarmed by reporting on this bill by many in the established media. We are alarmed that this bill has been characterized as “an act of defiance” against the powerful N.R.A., or a stunning example of legislative efficiency in contrast to the gridlock at the Federal level in Washington, DC. The New York Times reported the bill’s passage by the Florida House of Representatives in a story on March 7 with the headline “Florida Gun Control Bill Passed by House, Defying N.R.A.” CNN online published a story entitled “Florida adopts wide package of gun laws, while Washington stalls” on Saturday, March 10.
This law is neither defiant, nor wide in scope, and any story that would state otherwise, in either its content or its headline, is irresponsible.
In addition to believing the reporting is irresponsible, we are disgusted by the “reflected glory” Governor Rick Scott is receiving as a result of the coverage of the passage of this bill which we say is - at its best - a deadly compromise; and at worst: an act of cowardice, irresponsibility, and crass political maneuvering. Gov. Scott, is an ardent N.R.A. supporter (read N.R.A. Puppet), and was praised by the N.R.A.’s lobbying arm - the Institute for Legislative Action - in 2014 for signing “more pro-gun bills into law -- in one term -- than any other Governor in Florida history”. He is no hero of the “gun violence prevention” cause in America.
As Monivette Cordeiro wrote in the Orlando Weekly’s “Bloggytown” one day after the Parkland Massacre, Gov. Scott “could have had this conversation almost two years ago after a gunman massacred 49 people with a semi-automatic Sig Sauer MCX rifle at the gay nightclub Pulse. [He] could have had those conversations after listening to the wails of grieving families in Orlando or after [he] attended victims' funerals. If mass shootings in Newtown, San Bernardino or Virginia Tech (and the list goes on) didn't spur [him] to action, then at least the attack at Pulse should have.”
In short, had he acted after the PULSE massacre, the Parkland massacre and untold numbers of shootings in Florida since then could have been avoided.
We assert that this bill was prioritized for passage in large measure to inoculate Scott from charges of being an “N.R.A. Puppet” in the lead up for his run for the United States Senate, and at a time of growing opposition to the ease of access to firearms in America.
If this law is notable, it is notable for what it lacks rather than what it provides:
It does not improve background checks: Huge holes exist in background checks for guns sales including the infamous “gun show loophole” which allows private dealers to make sales to buyers without doing any background check.
It does not ban high capacity magazines
In exchange, the bill stipulates a three-year increase in the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21,and a three-day waiting period on gun purchases; it provides a mechanism for confiscation of guns from people under certain, extreme circumstances; and it offers funds for increased mental health care for students. It also bans the sale of “bump stocks”, which increase the rate at which a weapon can fire.
However, these elements are only a small portion of what is necessary to quickly and effectively reduce gun violence in the state of Florida. Furthermore, in no way should this bill be looked at as a “model” for other state or national gun violence prevention bills in America. Any effort to do so should be met with the fiercest possible opposition both in the legislatures, and from the grass roots.
But among its many flaws, one of the greatest is not what it fails to do, but what it does: allows for school personnel to carry firearms.
This is simply not acceptable to us. And it should not be acceptable to anyone.
On March 8, 2018, Joanne McCall, President of the Florida Education Association wrote to Florida governor Scott imploring him to “veto the funding and language in the budget that provides for arming school personnel.”
She continues: “Our teachers and other school employees are ready to fiercely defend our students, but none of them should ever have to choose between shepherding students to safety or confronting an armed assailant where they are sure to draw fire towards the very students they are trying to protect.”
We wholeheartedly agree with Ms. McCall.
Furthermore, we say that any provision which increases guns anywhere is an effort by the N.R.A. to put guns everywhere. That is simply not acceptable, and it is an effort that we will #RESIST!