While Florida Republican gubernatorial candidates have remained silent on gun violence since Sunday massacre in Las Vegas, Democrats have wasted no time ramping up their renewed calls for a closer look at legislation to promote gun control across the U.S.
Orlando businessman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King criticized Tallahassee Republicans for rejecting changes to Florida’s gun laws following the Pulse Nightclub massacre, which killed 49 people and wounded 53 others last year.
King pointed to legislation promoting universal background checks, magazine size limits and the end of the prohibition on studies related to gun violence as just some of the ways state lawmakers were failing a “large majority of Americans” who he said support such proposals.
“In Florida, our one-party state government in Tallahassee did not act to implement these ideas,” King said in a Facebook post Monday.
King also slammed political leaders for failing to prioritize mental health funding, something the political newcomer believes is strongly correlated with increased gun violence.
“Multiple recent incidents of gun violence towards law enforcement in Florida bore witness to the heavy correlation between mental illness and gun violence, yet Florida still ranks 50th in the nation in caring for the needs of the mentally ill,” King said.
King said the U.S. still faces an uphill battle to implement laws he says will curb gun violence nationwide -- but he thinks politicians haven’t done enough just yet.
“There is no doubt that the United States has much more it can do to combat gun violence,” he said.
Other Democrats have targeted gun lobbying groups and the National Rifle Association specifically, saying the nation’s largest pro-gun group is “standing in the way” of keeping American families and citizens safe.
“From Las Vegas, to Miami Gardens, to here in my city of Tallahassee, there is simply too much bloodshed from guns,” said Tallahassee mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in an email to supporters this week. “I know [the gun lobby is standing in the way] because they’ve tried silence me, when when I refused to repeal a seemingly innocuous law in Tallahassee that banned guns from our public parks.”
Gillum is referring to a 2014 lawsuit in which pro-gun group Florida Carry and the Second Amendment Foundation alleged the city was violating the Second Amendment by banning citizens from carrying their guns in public parks.
In February, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Tallahassee, a ruling which Gillum has touted as a victory against the NRA.
Gillum omits the fact that the National Rifle Association did not actually file the lawsuit but joined in supporting the legal challenge later.
Gillum has frequently railed against the NRA since declaring his run for governor earlier this year.
Estimates from 2013 found the NRA had over 5 million gun owners, many of whom are avid voters at the polls. The NRA is widely considered one of the strongest lobbying groups in part because of its strong voting power and intense efforts to push pro-gun legislation nationwide.
OpenSecrets estimated the NRA spent $3.2 million on lobbying efforts in 2017 alone, a number which is expected to climb before the year ends.
Gillum encouraged voters to fight back against the NRA’s “stranglehold” on the government by sharing personal stories of gun violence.
“Too many people think it simply won't change. I am not one of those people,” Gillum said. “This fight is too important; it is literally a matter of life and death.”
Former U.S. Rep. and Democratic gubernatorial Gwen Graham also agreed “more must be done” to curb gun crimes, but did not get into specifics this week.
“We must do more to stop this senseless violence,” she said in a post on social media.
Graham renewed calls for a sweeping series of gun control measures this summer after a gunman killed five people at an awning company in Orlando.
The former congresswoman also berated Gov. Rick Scott and Florida lawmakers for not responding swiftly or “effectively” to mass shootings.
“Scott and the legislature haven’t done a thing to curb gun violence in our state,” Graham said at the time. “Instead, after every shooting, Republicans respond ‘guns, guns, guns — we need more guns. Florida’s governor and legislature could act today to stem the epidemic of gun deaths our state faces if they just had the political courage.”
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