There’s a ray of hope in the war against America’s insane gun laws, which recently allowed a 19-year-old mentally deranged man to buy an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and mow down 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Earlier this week, Coral Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli challenged Florida laws — and put his job on the line — by proposing a ban of assault rifles in his city. Coral Gables commissioners approved the measure unanimously, despite a Florida law that bars cities from changing state gun regulations.
Florida’s gun laws impose fines of up to $5,000 and the possible firing of any official who tinkers with state gun regulations.
Valdes-Fauli says he’s willing to pay the price. “If that helps prevent the death of one of Coral Gables’ children, I would happily pay it,” he told me.
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Nikolas Cruz, the shooter at the Parkland high school, had bought his assault rifle at age 18 when, under state law, he was prohibited from buying a beer. Florida has one of the country’s most permissive gun laws.
Fortunately, the city of Coral Gables is not alone in its act of courage, and real — not fake — patriotism.
There is growing defiance from other quarters against the almost unlimited gun sales that have been supported by the National Rifle Association and top recipients of its political contributions, including President Trump, Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
In recent days, Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the country’s biggest sports retailers, announced it was ending sales of all assault-style rifles. Earlier, Delta Airlines, Hertz car rental, and MetLife insurance, among other companies, vowed to end their joint programs with the NRA.
Unlike Scott, who is proposing baby steps such as banning sales of assault weapons to anyone under 21, and Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature, Valdes-Fauli wants to ban all sales of assault rifles, regardless of whether the buyer is 18 or 80 years old. Cruz would not have been able to kill so many people in so little time if instead of having an AR-15 rifle he only had a knife, or a handgun, he says.
Coral Gables, an upscale community of about 51,000 people located southwest of downtown Miami, has no known gun shops, but has had many gun shows.
“I’m not in favor of outlawing all guns,” Valdes-Fauli says. But as things stand now, “We are basically allowing all guns, and put them in the hands of anyone who wants them.”
The Constitution’s Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, but doesn’t protect the right to buy a machine gun, or a missile. Just as the First Amendment protects free speech, but doesn’t give a license to people to libel.
The NRA, which spent about $50 million in campaign contributions to the Trump campaign, Republican candidates and anti-Hillary Clinton ads in the 2016 campaign, wants to arm teachers to prevent new mass shootings. Trump is supporting that idea.
It would be a godsend for the arms industry: Even if only 20 percent of America’s 3.5 million teachers are armed, that could amount to the sale of 700,000 new guns.
Trump says that more weapons in schools would help prevent new massacres, because the shooters would be afraid of being killed by armed teachers.
Valdes-Fauli rightly counters that arming teachers is a terrible idea. “Teachers have a complicated enough job as it is. Can you imagine teachers who are not trained for this, to engage in shootouts with somebody with a semi-automatic weapon while children are running in all directions? It’s ludicrous,” the mayor told me.
Putting weapons in the hands of teachers would also put teachers in harm’s way. Imagine if a police SWAT team storms into a school during a shooting and sees an adult with a weapon — they would immediately aim at him or her. Also, arming teachers could encourage violence-prone students to forcefully take away their teachers’ guns and start shooting.
Mayors across the nation should follow Valdes-Fauli’s steps and ban all assault rifles, before another tragedy shakes the nation. This madness has to stop.
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This column has been updated to reflect the Coral Gables Commission’s vote.