Democrats representing Broward County and South Florida seethed Wednesday over congressional inaction on firearms, hours after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland left 17 people dead. It was the second time in just over a year that Florida’s second-most populous county experienced a major mass shooting.
But while Democrats demanded action, Republicans generally avoided calling for legislative change, at least in the immediate aftermath.
“I said a little prayer, for all of them, then the next thought that popped into my head was, do we have to go through this again?” Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said. “Look how many of these mass shootings have occurred and we say enough is enough and then nothing is done. Here in the Senate we cannot even get Senator [Dianne] Feinstein’s bill that would prohibit people on the terrorist watch list from buying a gun.”
Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat who represents Parkland in Washington, choked up during an interview as he waited for a flight home. He said he spoke at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School just a few weeks ago.
“I have a picture of an adorable six year old who was killed at Sandy Hook whose father gave me that picture so I can remember every day why were working so hard to try to reduce gun violence,” Deutch said. “Everyone cares about safe communities. I shouldn’t need a mass shooting in my district to give me legitimacy to talk about why we need to prevent more mass shootings but I guess that’s the sad reality.”
Florida state Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat who represents northern Broward County in Tallahassee, said “This country and its elected leaders collectively have failed our children.”
Nelson’s Florida counterpart, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did not call for legislative change. He tweeted: “Today is that terrible day you pray never comes.”
“My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting,” President Donald Trump tweeted. “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
Broward County lawmakers are dealing with a mass shooting for the second time in just over a year after a shooting at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport in January 2017.
“Parkland is an idyllic community,” Deutch tweeted. “Tragedies like this occur everywhere. School shootings occur everywhere. This is horrific.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, said “This senseless violence must end.”
Both Deutch and Wasserman Schultz called for new gun control legislation in 2016 after the Orlando Pulse Nightclub attack and again in 2017 after the airport shooting.
“As a parent of a Broward County high school student, and as someone with friends whose children attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, it is gut wrenching that another senseless school shooting has occurred, this time in our community,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “In the United States of America, it is simply unacceptable that we allow children to run for their lives with their backpacks on. Unacceptable that we allow parents to fear for the worst while they wait to hear back from their kids, and unacceptable that we allow survivors of school shootings to live with a trauma that can never be explained away.”
Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who has been vocal about additional gun control legislation since the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, spoke on the Senate floor after details on the shooting began to emerge.
“This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America, this epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting,” Murphy said. “It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.”
Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said he was “outraged” by the shooting, while Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said, “We must do better to keep our schools and communities safe from gun violence.”
“Outraged by this horrific act of violence in Parkland,” Diaz-Balart tweeted. “Thankful for the first responders who acted quickly to protect students, faculty, and staff. Keeping the victims and their families in my thoughts as law enforcement continues their investigation.”
Nelson said he wants to see Feinstein’s bill and other pieces of gun legislation brought up again, but he acknowledged that getting something passed will be tough.
“Here in the Senate... it’s a very difficult political situation.”
Deutch, who said his first priority is “to be as available and helpful as I can,” said it’s necessary for lawmakers to act, and it doesn’t have to be a partisan fight.
“There’s nothing wrong or political with talking about ways to present this,” Deutch said. “They weren’t killed because of their partisan affiliation, or because of their views of the second amendment or because of anyone’s politics, this isn’t a political issue. Nobody wants more of these mass shootings.”