Florida lawmaker talks change after mass shootings

Rep. Darren Soto visits The Weekly

ORLANDO, Fla. – Members of Congress are away from Washington, D.C. and back in their home states and districts, but following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Daytona, Ohio, there were calls for the Senate to reconvene as some Democratic members urged them to pass gun control legislation. 

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D) joined anchor Justin Warmoth on "The Weekly on ClickOrlando.com" to discuss what he'd like to see happen when lawmakers head back to the Capitol. 

Here's a portion of the interview: 

Warmoth: "Is this a time, in light of the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, that you wish you were up in Congress to make something happen?"

Soto: "We've already passed two background check bills, one that closes the gun show loophole and basically requires every sale to have a background check. The second closes the Charleston loophole, where if you don't get your investigation back quick enough, you don't automatically get your gun. That's what happened in the case of Charleston where the gentleman literally put in the wrong address to get a gun through that loophole. So, I think the Senate has plenty to do just to pass those, but there's more work to be done. If the speaker called us back, I'd be the first one on that plane to deal with assault weapons, extended magazine clips and red flag laws. There's work that the House could do, but either way, we'll be ready to go." 

Warmoth: "I saw some calls for the Senate to reconvene. Were you behind those calls?" 

Soto: "I support those calls, but those are also from a lot of gun rights groups and from, frankly, Americans across our country. We saw in 24 hours more than 20 people dead. Again, it's assault weapons over and over again. And now there's a white nationalist tinge to it that we see getting increasingly common." 

Warmoth: "Yeah, we're seeing a lot more white nationalist rhetoric coming out. Is that concerning to you?" 

Soto: "Without question. We're getting to be a more diverse nation, but we're also a nation that appreciates all different folks from all different cultures and races. I think when you see some of the rhetoric coming out from some of the president's speeches where he talks about words like 'invasion' and 'alien' and calling other people 'rapists' or terrible names for countries, it lowers the sensitivity we have for each other. And it also causes some people who have already harbored racist feelings to get supercharged and go and hurt people. Obviously we have to tone down the high hateful rhetoric that's going on right now and realize we have major issues in this country that we have to solve, but we need to be professional while we're doing it."

Rep. Darren Soto talks Democratic candidates and debates on The Weekly with Justin Warmoth.

Warmoth: "Some Democratic colleagues of yours have called the president a racist. Do you believe President Trump is a racist?" 

Soto: "So, I don't name-call, but I can tell you he has made racist statements, like telling four members of Congress -- three of whom were born in the United States -- to go back to where they came from. And the fourth one is a citizen. Saying people on both sides of the Charlottesville white nationalist march were good people and denying that this kind of rhetoric is fueling some of these shooters, those are racist statements, but I don't name-call, so I'll let the American public make those determinations." 

Warmoth: "Let's go back to guns and what you believe ultimately would do some good, in your eyes, as far as gun control measures. Is there anything that needs to happen right away? Is that universal background checks, is that one? The red flag law? Is that going to necessarily end these mass shootings?" 

Soto: "There's multiple things that need to happen to lower these mass shootings, but let's start with those that are hugely popular and bipartisan. Ninety percent of Americans -- Democrats, Republicans and Independents -- support universal background checks. We've passed that bill out of the House. It's time for the Senate to act. Closing the Charleston loophole, so again we don't have people who are already not allowed to have guns under the law not get them that, again, is bipartisan and overwhelmingly possible. We can do those things. In Florida, we already passed a red flag bill for those who may be threatening to cause injury to themselves and others. It's much like our domestic violence injunctions that also allow for law enforcement to take away guns under court supervision. So, a court has to make a decision and it's temporary. Let's bring that nationwide. And then there's the tougher issues that, I believe at least, lessen the amount of carnage that a shooter can deliver, which is re-instituting the assault weapons ban. You know, we had that in place from 1994 until 2004. After 2004, we saw the deaths in mass shootings triple, and it may be getting closer to quadrupling now with the number of mass shootings. We didn't see these headlines. We didn't see these newscasts every day about mass shootings back during that period. This is a newer phenomenon over the last 10 years. And of course, extended magazine clips. Those two things, in particular, which are the hardest to do because there's less bipartisan support for them, those would make sure that a civilian can't wield a weapon of war in a crowded area and take down as many people as possible as opposed to a handgun or shotgun or things that are part of more personal firearms that we've had in the tradition of America. We would not ban anything like that, but these weapons of war don't belong in civilian hands." 

Soto also discussed last month's turmoil in Puerto Rico, federal legislation he filed to address guardianship issues and how tariffs imposed on Mexico by the Trump administration are affecting farmers. 

Watch the full interview Sunday at 8 a.m. on News 6. 

About the Author:

Justin Warmoth joined News 6 in February 2013 as our Brevard County reporter. In March of 2016, after anchoring the weekend mornings since August of 2015, Justin was promoted to weekday morning anchor. You can catch him Monday through Friday mornings from 5-7 a.m. and at noon.