Florida Senator and Broward Legislative Delegation Chairman Gary Farmer released the following statement regarding yesterday’s tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida:
I am heartbroken by the devastating act of evil that occurred yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Every one of these too often occurring incidents is a tragedy, but as a former resident of Parkland and the Chairman of the Broward Delegation, this particular act of violence has left a brutal and lasting scar on my heart. I want to express my condolences and support to both State Senator Kevin Rader and State Representative Jared Moskowitz who represent the districts where the school is located.
I have been personally affected by the tragedy that unfolded yesterday. My family previously lived just 7 miles from the school. My daughter had friends in the school that day, and her life and the lives of my entire family have been forever changed. While my fight for proper gun safety measures began long before today, this incident has only hardened my resolve to protect our children from the horrors of gun violence.
In the wake of this life-shattering event our initial reaction must be to provide aid and comfort to the victims and their families. Last afternoon the lives of every student in that school and our entire community were shattered, and we need to be ready and available to assist them in any way possible. We cannot, however, lose sight of the major gaps in current statutes which allowed this tragic event and those before it to occur. The Florida State Senate and House of Representatives must act immediately to close these holes and provide our students and teachers with the protections that they so desperately need.
Legislators and pundits who have been misguided or corrupted by the powerful pro-gun lobby will say that it is too soon to act. To that, I say that it is too late. It is too late to prevent the horrors that unfolded yesterday, and it is too late to prevent the evil acts that have occurred elsewhere. However, it is never too late to take action and prevent this evil act from ever happening again.
Today a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas accurately summed up the current situation as he reminded politicians that “Ideas without action remain ideas, and children die as a result.” For years I and many of my colleagues have proposed legislation that would take the necessary steps to address our State’s lack of gun safety measures. These proposals have been ignored amongst the majority leadership in both Chambers, and Floridians have paid the price with their blood and tears. The time to act is now, and those who refuse to do so whether knowingly or not are providing material support to the continuation of violence in our State.
In the State Senate a bill has been filed to ban the same type of assault weapon that was used to carry out the mass murder that occurred in Parkland. Despite the clear need for such legislation displayed both this week and by numerous incidents before, such as the Pulse shooting, this bill by Senator Stewart (SB 196) has remained unheard in any committee.
The weapon used in yesterday’s shooting has been described as an “AR-15 style rifle.” This style of weapon has become the weapon of choice for those seeking to commit mass murder in our schools, businesses, and other community gathering places. These weapons have the ability to carry more rounds than could ever be required for recreation or self-defense. They are loaded using detachable magazines, which allow the user to quickly reload and continue to unleash a stream of lethal ammunition upon their victims. Let there be no doubt about it, AR-15 style rifles and other assault weapons are designed to be instruments of mass slaughter, and have no place in the hands of any civilian. With the devastating result of the widespread civilian access to weapons of war staring us directly in the face, I find it unconscionable that any legislator could oppose an effort to take them off the streets. I once again urge the majority leadership in the State Senate to immediately take up SB 196, to address this threat to our children and communities.
In the hours following yesterday’s shooting, news quickly surfaced that there were clear warnings about the intentions of the evil perpetrator of this act. Despite online threats made by the shooter which specifically stated his intentions to commit violent acts (both in his former school and against law enforcement) state, local, and federal authorities did not possess the tools that they needed to prevent the shooter’s access to deadly weapons. Currently our State statutes prohibit the registration of firearms in Florida. This means that when threats are issued, our law enforcement is unable to determine if a suspect has access to weapons that would allow them to carry out their threat. My bill, SB 1476, would eliminate the Florida statute that currently bars the creation of a statewide firearm registry.
The gaps in our current gun safety laws are so major and so numerous that the prospect of taking action may seem daunting. My fellow state legislators need to be aware that the vehicles to provide for gun safety in Florida exist in current bills that have not yet been given the chance to be heard. We can take action to prevent future violence before the legislative session ends in March, and our legislators must be held accountable if they fail to do so.
It is too late to stop the horrors of yesterday, but it is not too late to prevent tragedy from occurring tomorrow. What we saw yesterday is the direct result of a failure by the Legislature to act. The students of Parkland suffered from that failure, and in the wake of this tragedy, they are calling upon us to act. Broward County School Superintendent Runcie has told us that in the hours following this tragedy students have reached out to him telling him that now is the time for us to have a “reasonable conversation about gun safety legislation.” We owe it to the victims of this horrifying event to take immediate action to address comprehensive gun safety legislation.
One of the most common descriptions of this event that I have heard and read on social media is that this was a “senseless tragedy.” That is wrong. This wasn’t senseless. It was the logical, even likely result of our failure to regulate the sale of firearms. It was the result of a steady stream of obstruction by the gun industry. And it was the result of law enforcement not being provided with the tools needed to stop events like. What is senseless is that mass killing after mass killing occurs in this country, but we only express remorse and call for thoughts & prayers but fail to take action to stop these events from happening. Enough!!
As a State Senator, and more importantly as a father, I will not rest until we can ensure the safety of our children and communities. I will fight tooth and nail against every dangerous and nonsensical pro-gun piece of legislation in the State Senate. I will not allow our State Legislature to act as a contributing factor to the horrifying violence that we saw this week, and I demand that my fellow legislators do the same.
For those affected by this tragedy, the following resources have been made available:
Grief counselors are available for all of our students, families and staff.
To speak to a BCPS Family Counselor from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Thursday, February 15 and Friday, February 16, call 754-321-HELP or 754-321-4357. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, for Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, grief counselors are on site at the following locations:
Pine Trails Park Recreation Center and Amphitheater
Coral Springs Gymnasium
Coral Springs Center For The Arts
For Marjory Stoneman Douglas staff members, grief counselors are available at Parkland Library.
For those seeking to provide help to those affected by this tragedy, a GoFundMe account has been established to help provide for their needs: https://GoFundMe.com/stonemandouglasfundor http://BrowardEducationFoundation.org.