Yesterday, like many I was moved by this picture of survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, weeping as the Florida Legislature refused to even allow debate on an assault weapons ban.
The vote was not close. The motion to remove the bill from committee failed by a 71–36, mostly party line vote. Bear in mind this was not a vote on whether to pass the bill, but simply on whether it could be discussed. I think it needed to be discussed. I checked, and confirmed, that my Republican state Representative, Holly Raschein, was among the 71 who voted deny these kids a debate. I resolved then to personally go to her office in Key Largo to make clear how disturbed I was by that vote.
So today I took the five minute drive to 99198 Overseas Highway and walked into Representative Raschein’s office. Behind the desk was a young lady who extended me every courtesy, a fair chunk of her time, and was very professional and informed. Representative Rashein is well served by her staff. Not all of Florida’s representatives are so well served. One was recently fired after advancing the absurd conspiracy theory that two of the very articulate survivors of the school shooting were “crisis actors.”
The assistant to Representative Rashein explained the vote was to remove the bill from committee without it going through the process of consideration, committee debate, and committee amendments. I was ready for that one. I advised her that I knew this unusual approach was because the bill had been killed by the Republican dominated committee. I argued motions to remove from committee were part of the process too, and that doing so in this case would have allowed debate and amendments to occur in the general House.
I was surprised by the assistant’s next approach. She acknowledged that Florida’s gun laws, as “The Gunshine State” were too pro-gun. She basically argued that Florida’s Republicans had gotten it on the issue and were working on bipartisan, meaningful legislation, that unlike the assault weapons ban, would have a chance of passing. This effort is the subject of a Washington Post article today. While the law is still in drafting stage, apparently on the table are waiting periods, raising the age when guns can be purchased, and more rigorous background checks.
I made clear that I would follow the process and hold the party in power (overwhelmingly Republicans) responsible for continued inaction. The assistant seemed to accept that challenge telling me that was completely fair.
Before leaving, I pointed out one more thing. I stated that the Republicans were responsible for the current state of the law in Florida that earned it the nickname “The Gunshine State” and made this tragedy possible. I said that “I would hate to be the parent of one of these kids whose life legacy becomes their child’s death finally woke Florida Republicans up.” I pointed out this was not the first mass shooting in Florida, or even first school shooting, just the worst. They had warnings and they failed these students.
She acknowledged that. I thanked her very much for her time and patience. I hope no more have to die for lessons to be learned.
I encourage everyone to contact their elected representatives.