League of Women Voters calls for stricter gun laws after 17 shot at Parkland school​

17 people killed in shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School​

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

MELBOURNE, Fla. - The League of Women Voters of Florida held a press conference to propose a state ban on all semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity feeding devices.

The press conference was ahead of the last Central Florida public hearing for Florida’s Constitution Review Commission (CRC).

The press conference comes almost a week after 17 people were shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The accused gunman, Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school and is currently being held without bail in the Broward County Jail, charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder.

"We also come here as Florida citizens united in our shared grief and horror over the violent rampage inside a South Florida High School that claimed 17 lives just last week,"Pam Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said.

"Doing nothing is not an acceptable response to the third mass shooting in Florida within three years."

Lawmakers are set to hear Senate Bill 196 and House Bill 219 this session. Both bills detail the banning of semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity feeding devices.

According to officials with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia have similar bans currently in place.

Goodman said this is a public safety matter that should be addressed when voters go the polls in November.

"We are hopeful that they will listen to this message and that they are on a listening tour to see what is of importance to Floridians in this state. Right now, this is at the top of their list," Goodman said.

It's a once-every-20-year process, wherein 37- appointed members hear from Floridians on possible changes to the constitution. They met in Melbourne today as part of the "Road to the Ballot" public hearing tour.

The commission then puts some of those proposals up for a vote on the ballot during the November election.

A ban on semi-automatic weapons is not on the list of current proposals right now; however, Goodman is hopeful.

News 6 reached out to all 37 lawmakers who represent Central Florida to find out where they stand on gun legislation in the Florida Senate and House. Of those who responded, here are their responses:

State Senators:

District 17: Sen. Debbie Mayfield (R-Brevard, Indian River counties)
“First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims’ families and their fellow students as they continue to cope with this tragedy. We need a strong, comprehensive plan to address the issues identified by students, parents, teachers, and law enforcement that provides additional funds for mental health training, screening and counseling in our schools as well as ways to prevent gun violence from taking place on school campuses. Nothing is more important to me in these remaining weeks of session than making our schools safe.” 

District 9: Sen. David Simmons (R-Seminole and Volusia counties)
"I support ban on fully automatic weapons," said Senator Simmons over the phone, "And would support reasonable restrictions on semi-automatic weapons,  including age restrictions from 18 years of age to 21. I've always felt like this is a symptom of a problem, but the real problem is a steady diet of very violent videos given and made freely accessible for children."

District 11: Sen. Randolph Bracy (D- Orange County)
"Particularly in light of last week's harrowing events, I strongly favor policies that restrict access to semi-automatic assault rifles and large-capacity magazines. I support the League of Women Voters of Brevard County in their efforts today to urge action on the part of all of Florida's policymakers.” 

District 15: Sen. Victor Torres (D-Orange, Osceola counties)
 “Florida should adopt a ban on these items and I am a proud cosponsor of bills that would accomplish just that.”   

State Representatives:

District 48: Rep. Amy Mercado (D-Orange County)
"Yes, I am in full support of the semi-automatic assault weapons ban.
We have had years of trying to pass sensible gun control, yet House and Senate leadership along with the NRA lobby have consistently blocked those bills."

District 49: Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orange County)
"I have filed legislation to ban the sale and transfer of semi-automatic weapons and large capacity magazines in Florida during every legislative session. Assault weapons and large capacity magazines are the gold standard for mass murder. They are weapons of war designed to kill in a ruthless and efficient manner. After the horrifying events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland this month, the Pulse Nightclub tragedy in Orlando, Florida in June 2016, as well as mass shootings in Las Vegas, NV and Sutherland Springs, TX, it is imperative the Florida legislature addresses this issue."

District 45: Rep. Kamia Brown (D-Orange County)
"Assault weapons and large capacity magazines have no use on Florida’s streets. The sole purpose of this weapon is to do irreparable harm, leaving families, friends, and loved ones in complete disarray and destruction. Assault weapons are tools designed of kill efficiently. Not only are they found in nearly every case of a mass shooting, they make it easy to inflict as much pain and damage as possible. I fully support putting a stop to the purchase assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

We should also be tackling the problems with universal background checks and tightening the loopholes that allow these instruments of terror to be put in the hands of people unfit to hold them. The mental health funding in our state is abysmal. Now, more than ever, it is essential that the legislature provides adequate funding for mental health care so that all Floridians have access to this critical resource.
We must provide our schools with the tools to identify troubled students by having specialized staff. There needs to be a mental health or guidance counselor and a full-time law enforcement officer at every school in Florida.
It is time we act effectively and dedicate adequate resources to help end the violence.  Additional dollars MUST be allocated with our safe schools funding in this year’s budget.
Representative Joseph Geller has filed a proposal that would allow public schools to have a dedicated and armed resource office who is trained in emergency response. I implore our colleagues across the aisle give it fair consideration for the sake of our students’ safety.
We need to take a good look at how the policies of the last couple of decades have led us down this road and reevaluate our approach. Most importantly, supplying our schools, teachers, and staff with the resources they need is a solid start at turning this ship around."

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