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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