Fabiola Santiago

Only political drunks arm teachers and deny the need to ban assault weapons

#RallyinTally protesters march on Florida Capitol demanding gun reform

Hundreds of protesters marched to Florida's Capitol in Tallahassee demanding gun safety reform from state legislators on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
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Hundreds of protesters marched to Florida's Capitol in Tallahassee demanding gun safety reform from state legislators on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.

Republicans in the Florida Legislature are like alcoholics — in denial and dismissive.

The real problem is that killers armed with legal, easily purchased semi-automatic assault weapons slaughter and injure innocents in double-digit numbers in a matter of minutes.

But these legislators aren’t interested in acknowledging their existence, much less acting to banish the military-grade weapons. They’re only changing the age when killers can purchase weapons from 18 to 21 and establishing a waiting period of three days for a potential killer to obtain military-grade weapons — and they call this groundbreaking legislation.

Praise us, they say, a bipartisan deal!

The NRA hates it and the liberals do, too, always the sign of a good bill.

The real problem, however, is that the bullets from an AR-15, the weapon of choice for mass killers, are tough to survive because they obliterate whatever organ or tissue they pierce.

Peter Wang, the boy who held the door for fleeing classmates and saved lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had to have his face remade out of clay for his funeral.

But don’t complain, Floridians.

Be polite to the hard-working legislators and grateful for the show of “working across the aisle,” as House Speaker-designate Rep. Jose Oliva of Miami Lakes and Rep. Carlos Trujillo of Doral admonished Tuesday during the House Appropriations Committee hearing where they passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

Because they could be doing nothing, which is what happened after the Pulse club shooting left 49 dead in Orlando.

But make no mistake. The negotiation to act on something might have never happened but for the intervention of hundreds of anguished and angry kids descending on Tallahassee, and for their appearances on national television making smarter points about gun control than legislators.

Yet lawmakers couldn’t be swayed again Tuesday, even by the testimony of a 16-year-old girl who was in the first classroom Nikolas Cruz targeted.

“I shouldn’t have had to step over my friends [bodies] to leave the building,” she said, voice cracking.

“Thank you, ma’am,” Trujillo said when she finished speaking.

It defies logic to believe that if lawmakers apply enough bandages to law enforcement shortcomings, beef up security at schools, and fund mental health initiatives the mass shootings will stop even if nothing is done about high-capacity magazines and assault rifles.

Despite the tearful objections and testimony of Parkland and Coral Springs parents and teachers, the legislators decided the solution is to arm teachers — no matter that they didn’t sign up to be cops but to educate — through “marshal programs” under the direction of law enforcement and school superintendents.

The Democrats who represent Parkland and Coral Springs voted for the Safety Act because they wouldn’t go home empty handed.

“Four layers of government failed these kids,” said Rep. Jared Evan Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, a Douglas alum. He called revelations of failures by multiple agencies and people to stop Cruz “a death blow every day.” He spoke of being present as parents were told their child was dead. Oh, the piercing screams of horror and pain coming through the walls at that Marriott where they were gathered for six hours waiting.

“Is this the best we can get?” Moskowitz said of the legislation. “It’s not.”

But he urged colleagues to vote for it. The deal includes funding to replace the shot-up 9th grade building, to create a memorial to honor the victims, and provides financial assistance to the victims’ families.

Moskowitz reiterated that the NRA opposes the new gun regulations, which isn’t saying much this time because it’s like limiting drinking hours for a drunk or changing the liquor of choice. If you’ve followed the proliferation of guns in Florida for years, it was easy to tell that the opposition from the NRA and Florida Carry lobbies at Tuesday’s hearing was a mere token gesture. When these people want something, they’re wolves, not one-minute speakers.

The Assault Weapons Ban was enacted at the federal level in 1994. It didn’t stop all mass shootings, but since it was allowed to expire in 2004, AR-15s — lightweight, fast, and deadly — became “America’s favorite.” Since then mass shootings have grown both in frequency and in the number of the dead and injured. The guns are the problem.

In the aftermath of the deadliest high school shooting in history on its turf, how can the Florida Legislature dismiss student survivors, parents, teachers — even major Republican donors vowing to defund them — and not make a real effort to ban the weapons?

One of those stepping up to the plate and calling for a ban is Republican billionaire Mike Fernandez of Miami, a major GOP donor, who says he won’t give one cent to candidates for office or officeholders who don’t support an assault weapons ban. And he’s an NRA member — although he won’t be renewing this year in protest — and proud owner of a formidable gun collection.

Rep. Bill Hager, a hunter and Palm Beach County Republican, says he would support the ban on assault weapons.

That’s real bipartisanship. The rest is groundbreaking political gibberish from the Florida Legislature.

Elected officials with the power to enact change act like alcoholics.

They won’t even admit that we have a problem — and it isn’t that teachers aren’t armed or that schools aren’t bunkers. Or that with better law enforcement coordination there won’t be mass casualties next time.

It’s certainly not that the Second Amendment, penned to address the need for a citizen’s musket-carrying militia to defend the country 240 years ago, is at risk of being obliterated.

It’s that assault weapons have no place in society. Beyond the military and law enforcement — the militia armed to defend us in the 21st century — they aren’t needed for anything, except killing innocents en masse.

Only political drunks are in denial.

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