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First Steps of Action to Keep Our Students Safe

February 19, 2018 - 12:00pm

We all know the cycle: shock, followed by anger, after which we all say never again.

Then it happens again.  

On Valentine's Day, the horror returned but this time in my home county. In a furor of 6 minutes, 17 souls perished in a what can be described as nothing less than an atrocity. A nation once again left to ask, why and how does this keep happening?  Never again, we all say.

This time, we need to mean it.

Addressing guns in the Florida Legislature isn't an easy endeavor. Republicans overwhelmingly control the Legislature, and despite some lip-service, neither Gov. Scott nor legislative leaders took any real action to force significant policy reforms after the massacre at Pulse.

With three weeks left in this session, there are plenty of places where we can find common ground, even in Republican-dominated Tallahassee.

First, setting aside the debate of whether guns like the AR-15 should be sold in the first place, can we all agree that a person who is too young to buy beer should not be allowed to walk into a gun store or a gun show and walk out with a semi-automatic rifle? Let's start there by raising the age limit to 21, the legal age to buy a handgun and obtain a Concealed Weapons Permit. 

Secondly, this atrocity has exposed the utter ineptness of our state's background checks. In this instance, not just one red flag was missed, but countless flags by countless agencies.  We have the technological capacity to ensure that every agency has access to the work done by others, so when the FBI was alerted, they should have known that state child welfare agencies had been called, and that the student had disciplinary challenges -- and all of that data should have been in the system which approves gun purchases. Sadly, we don't know how many other cases like this one have fallen through the cracks, and it is time to seal those cracks shut, permanently. This is a critical public safety measure.

Third, Florida voters in 1998 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that allowed individual counties to close the gun show loophole, the loophole which allows private gun sales to take place at gun shows without a background check. Several counties have voted to close this loophole, but these laws are not being enforced. It is time to start upholding the will of the voters and enforce the law.

Fourth, while we can't turn our schools into prisons, we do need to invest more in school safety, in both infrastructure and procedures. No person should be able to walk onto a campus with a long rifle in a bag unnoticed, and at a minimum, visitors to campus should be searched. Furthermore, we need to ensure teachers and students are drilled in how to respond in a crisis.

And finally, it is time Florida gets zealous about mental health funding. After each of these tragedies, there is an increased call for more mental health funding, yet here in Florida, nothing really changes. Depending on the year, Florida ranks 49th or 50th in per-capita funding for mental health services. This is unacceptable. We should be tapping into all available resources -- including Medicaid -- to provide greater access for all Floridians.

None of the suggestions I outlined above in any way infringe on the rights of law abiding adults to own weapons. But they might, just might, make it harder for the next Nickolas Cruz to attack the next Stoneman Douglas, or just might make it easier for law enforcement to stop him.

The time is now. We've said never again before. This time, the Legislature must mean it.


State Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole, D-Plantation, has represented the 98th District, which includes parts of Davie, Plantation, and Sunrise in southern Broward County, since 2012.



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Bravo Katie Edwards-Walpole! More people have been k!lled in Florida under Rick Scott's administration than under any previous administration.

Tragedies like this are NOT avoidable. There will always be evil people wanting to hurt others. The way to minimize these situations is to recognize our right to defend ourselves and allow teachers, who want to, to carry on school property. Why do people lose their unalienable rights when they step on school property?

Why does ANYONE need a WEAPON of WAR unless they are FIGHTING a WAR? If anyone is enamored with Weapons of War, they should JOIN the MILITARY. 1st. Amendment does not say ANYTHING about ***ault Rifles &/or High Capacity Magazines.

Why should anyone have an inalienable right to own an AR-15? No one outside of the military or law enforcement should have access to such weapons.

LOLOLOL, the AR-15 is NOT a military weapon. If our troops used one we would not be winning conflicts. Get educated. Also realize that defending one's life, liberty and property is an unalieanable right. It is NOT given to us by government nor are they allowed to infringe upon it.

Raising the age to 21 (or any other number) will do NOTHING - Read the 2nd Amendment CLOSELY. Age or gun restrictions are NOT LAWFUL! Hey, folks, the "Age of Aquarius" is OVER! We're fighting over Poor Parenting and the general paranoia of "Technology Overload". Add to that the feelings of (Socialist) Entitlements - free food, free school, free EVERYTHING and you've got world affairs at a "Nuclear Level". Too many decisions for anyone, and the Boatload of "Professional Politicians" trying to convince us that their unyielding efforts will take us back to the JOY OF FREEDOM and LARGE GOVERNMENT. A perfect setup for "LORD OF THE FLYS" and "1984's BIG BROTHER".

Tampaguy so right...Poor Parenting & Social Public Enemy #1...

I’m good with these suggestions. I’d take it one step further. Arm the teachers and staff.

This was up 4 years ago, killed by democrats from Miami

"SSN" BLOCKED my comment claiming "profanity" when there was NONE: Only common sense and 1st Amendment "Free Speech" reason... I suppose politics and politicians ALWAYS takes "the front row seats" in the "media rulebook",...and the "plebes" will always be victimized by the steadily increasing "political snowball" set towards "rolling down the hill..."

We don't agree often but I've run into the same thing copying quotes from stories in SNN. They don't seem to like words in the comment section that refer to deaths at the hands of other people. I've tried any number of alternatives. Only misspelling them seems to get past the filters.

First, The age should be raised to 21 before a person may be allowed or drafted into the military ..... Where they are trained to kill people! Second, Background checks to be effective must be nationwide Third, It won't work on a county by county basis because of the ability to create the infrastructure and enforce the law. Fourth, They are drilled regularly. In fact MSD HIgh Principal credits the drills for saving lives on 2-14-18. Fifth, Mental Health should be addressed. Too much stress is placed upon students and adults daily. Lastly, this issue is a systemic societal issue. We have created an environment in which we all are desensitized to violence and outrageous acts in society. We have reinforced unacceptable behavior through TV, Music, Movies and entertainment in general. We have always but today the Bad Guys win more often than not. We have created a society where respect is gained through victory....It doesn't matter how the victory comes about either. We need to fix Society and continue to look at what we do.

Yes, by all means raise the age limit to 21. That would have prevented this tragedy because, as we all know, everyone is infinitely more mature at age 21 than at age 19.

Yes, I guess we can no longer allow anyone under 21 to enlist in the armed forces. It's disgraceful that this person was served up on a silver platter to the FBI , everything short of a citizens arrest was done by concerned citizens and they did nothing. We demand common sense FBI reform!

Bring back the "Draft" teach these kids some "moxie", "respect for Country and each other", "discipline", "self respect", and "purpose" !

Right you are. I enlisted in the Army late in WW!! at 17 and became a 2nd LT at 18. All you said was drilled into me by serving our country.

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