Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Lessons from Parkland are too slow in coming
Five years ago, a former student walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland with a military-style assault weapon and cluster of magazines. Seven minutes later, 17 victims were dead and 17 more lay injured. The shooter fired 139 rounds.
Seventeen beautiful lives, gone in an instant.
Like so many previous mass shootings, Parkland should have been the one to finally prompt Congress to ban such weapons from the civilian market, once and for all, as it once did with a lifesaving law that it allowed to expire in 2004. But Congress has let the massacres in schools and elsewhere continue, including another in Uvalde, Texas, where 23 died last year.
As Broward and America honor the Parkland victims, people may ask what lessons have been applied. Sadly, it’s a mixed result.
The Florida Legislature and Congress braved the gun lobby’s wrath long enough to enact some reforms, notably the red-flag laws that empower judges to have weapons seized from people who pose a clear danger to others. Florida banned sales of rifles to people under 21. Congress improved background checks for youthful buyers and forbade gun ownership by domestic violence offenders not married to their significant others, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”
This modest progress is threatened by a radically reactionary Supreme Court that judges gun laws by what American society did or did not allow when the nation was younger. That’s what barred New York from requiring people to have a special need for concealed gun permits.
Taking that perverse “logic” an insane step further, the Fifth U.S. Court of Appeals has held that even a domestic abuser has a constitutional right to own guns. The court’s reason? Domestic abuse wasn’t a crime in the old days. (Women couldn’t vote then, either.)
Florida is doing no better.
Prompted by the gun lobby and Attorney General Ashley Moody, the state Supreme Court barred from the ballot an assault weapons ban that some Parkland survivors advocated.
At Gov. Ron DeSantis’ invitation, the Legislature is primed to allow people to carry concealed weapons without obtaining a permit that involves a background check and required safety training.
Although that bill (HB 543) has nothing to do with assault weapons, it caters to the same culture of weaponry that sets the U.S. apart from other developed countries. That dishonors the memory of the 14 children and three staff members who died at Parkland.
A similar Senate bill, SB 150, is better in that it has provisions that apply lessons from Parkland. It requires the state to develop a behavioral threat management system that would help schools identify and treat potentially dangerous students.
But that idea should stand on its own merits, not be coupled with permit-free concealed weapons.
Agriculture Secretary Wilton Simpson is pushing legislation to prohibit businesses and credit card companies from keeping separate track of firearm and ammunition sales. That’s a gift to criminals as well as the gun lobby.
Wiser people in Tallahassee are trying to deal with the assault weapons crisis by banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. That would be progress, but remember that the Parkland killer carried 10-round magazines.
In Congress, Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., a gun dealer, passed out AR-15 lapel pins to his House colleagues. Among those seen proudly wearing one was Rep. George Santos, the Long Island fabulist, and Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of St. Petersburg. Those pins celebrate the worst moments in our recent history, and the ghouls who wear them should be ashamed.
The worst lesson that some politicians are taking from the Parkland tragedy is that Florida should have the nation’s most bloodthirsty death penalty law, despite zero evidence that it would deter any future mass murderer.
As for the guns themselves, lawmakers want to make it much easier for people to carry them. The guns have to be concealed. But the Legislature’s reckless pro-gun mentality is there for all to see, and it’s getting worse.
The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney, and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Editorials are the opinion of the Board and written by one of its members or a designee. To contact us, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.