Opinion

Our son died at Pulse nightclub. Please vote for gun safety in Florida

Fred and Maria Wright lost their son Jerry in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.
Fred and Maria Wright lost their son Jerry in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

It’s been just over two years since our son Jerry, along with 48 other innocent people, was shot and killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.

Since then, we’ve watched countless families mourn their children who have been killed or wounded by gun violence, devastated each time our leaders fail to stand up to the NRA.

After our Jerry was taken from us in June 2016, we traveled to Washington, ready to fight for common-sense gun laws that would stop this kind of violence. As we all know now, Congress didn’t do much to address the gun violence crisis we face. And too many of our Florida leaders failed us too. In 2002, at the urging of the NRA, Florida moved its permitting system for concealed weapons to the agriculture commissioner’s office.

Earlier this year, we learned that this office failed to review federal background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits for more than a year. During this period — which coincided with the Pulse nightclub shooting — Florida saw a spike in applications for concealed weapons permits.

The Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner now, NRA-A+ rated Matt Caldwell, has committed to working with the NRA — just like his predecessor, Adam Putnam.

To make matters worse, he’s shown he doesn’t care about the mismanaged concealed weapons permitting system by refusing to investigate the department’s failures while serving in the Florida House. If Matt Caldwell won’t even look into this dangerous oversight at the department, how can we trust him to look out for our safety?

Luckily, we have the chance to elect an agriculture commissioner who will stand up for our safety and issue concealed weapons permits responsibly.

The Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner, Nikki Fried, has pledged to stand up to the gun lobby and conduct a thorough review of the process for granting concealed weapons permits.

For years, Florida was considered the NRA’s petri dish — sometimes even referred to as the “Gunshine State.” But in the months since the Parkland shooting, we’ve begun to see a shift. Finally, Florida has begun to say “enough” to senseless gun violence and the tides are changing on gun safety.

This spring, our Republican-controlled legislature passed a sweeping gun safety bill, which created a Red Flag law and raised the age to purchase firearms to 21. Our state is finally on the right track.

But all of this progress stands to be lost if we don’t make the right choices on Nov. 6.

This election, we’re presented with sharp contrasts in many of our statewide races. And the stakes couldn’t be higher — we know that from experience. Everything else pales compared to having your child killed.

With Election Day rapidly approaching, we’ve found ourselves asking: Which candidates will fight for gun safety in Florida? We are lifelong Republicans. But, as this past year in the state legislature shows, gun violence prevention doesn’t have to be a right or left issue or red or blue issue. It’s a life or death issue.

We’re fortunate to see a number of Florida candidates embracing gun safety this year. Sean Shaw, who’s running to be Florida attorney general, released an ad compiling clips of him discussing taking on the NRA in court, fighting to prohibit assault weapons and strengthening background checks.

And just this past weekend, during the Florida gubernatorial debate, Andrew Gillum stressed his commitment to taking on the gun lobby, and conversely, Ron DeSantis wants to strengthen his ties to the NRA. Nothing we can say or do will bring Jerry back. But we cannot sit by and let other families experience the pain we’ve endured. We must do our part to stop the carnage.

Our Jerry was brave and strong. Now we have to be brave for him, and all Floridians must show courage - for Jerry and for every victim of gun violence whose life was senselessly cut short. Florida is finally heading in the right direction when it comes to gun safety — it’s up to all of us to ensure we continue in that direction.

That’s why we will be voting for gun sense candidates Andrew Gillum for governor, Nikki Fried for agriculture commissioner and Sean Shaw for attorney general. Together, we can elect leaders in Florida who will put our safety first.

By voting for gun sense candidates Andrew Gillum for governor, Nikki Fried for agriculture commissioner and Sean Shaw for attorney general, together, we can elect leaders in Florida who will put our safety first.

Fred and Maria Wright are members of the Everytown Survivor Network.

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