Government responds to Florida shooting
SUFFOLK COUNTY—It has been over two weeks since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead and over a dozen others injured. The alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz, 19, was arrested shortly after the incident. Local lawmakers soon began posting comments and positions on the issue of gun laws in this country.
New York Sen. Phil Boyle introduced legislation last week that will require every school district in the state of New York to do a threat assessment on all of their school buildings. To ensure compliance and to eliminate any new unfunded mandates, the senator recommends that the state provide the funding to the districts to complete the assessments.
“A lot of schools are not aware of their vulnerabilities,” Boyle wrote in a statement. “They need to know every entrance and exit and who has access to those areas. They should know what doors and windows are locked and unlocked, and who, if anyone, has the responsibility of monitoring those areas.”
Shortly after the Florida massacre, congressman Peter King reportedly said that a type of “religious fervor” blocks common-sense gun control.
When this newspaper asked him to elaborate, King said you really have to get out of the New York metropolitan area to understand the culture surrounding guns in this county, adding that many gun owners view even the slightest regulations as a step towards confiscation. He also expressed his belief that even if the National Rifle Association didn’t exist, the voting constituents who are pro-gun tend to be more passionate about the issue than those who casually support reasonable gun laws.
King said he has nothing against people owning guns, unless they have a criminal record or are on the terrorist watchlist. “If you can’t fly on a plane, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun,” he noted, adding that he voted for the federal assault weapons ban in 1994, which narrowly passed with a 52-48 vote in the Senate. “I don’t see a reason for owning an AR-15,” he said. “You can’t hunt with it because it destroys the animal.”
The assault weapons ban expired in 2004. “Congress hasn’t done anything to reinstate it,” King said, adding that he supports a ban on bump stocks, which allow a semi-automatic weapon to fire in rapid succession.
King also supports increased background checks for gun shows and private sales and he opposes bills, like the one congressman Lee Zeldin sponsored last year, that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
Zeldin issued a statement a few days after the shooting, calling for a Congressional hearing on the state of gun violence in this country.
“This tragedy could have and should have been prevented,” Zeldin wrote. “The warning signs were there and clearly pointed to the fact this young man was extremely troubled. In light of this tragedy, it is crucial that Congress, law enforcement and the American public identify how Nikolas Cruz slipped through the cracks. We must prevent another such breakdown. I support law-abiding citizens having the ability to possess firearms to protect themselves, their families, their loved ones and property. However, we must ensure lunatics manifesting violent criminal intentions to murder with firearms have access to none.”
Numerous reports have been published recently, stating that Zeldin has taken donations from the NRA. The numbers vary, but a common theme is that he is the biggest recipient of pro-gun funds in New York State. When asked about these allegations, the congressman responded that people on both sides of the gun issue have supported his campaigns. “I am my own man and I make decisions based on my own beliefs,” he said, adding that the published figures are highly exaggerated because, after crunching the numbers for both the 2015-16 and 2013-14 election cycles, the donations add up to below $15,000.
Zeldin also said he supports arming teachers, but only those who are interested in “safely” and “skillfully” possessing a firearm. “I would never want to see a firearm in the possession of someone who doesn’t want it or won’t operate it skillfully,” he added.
On a more national note, the Republican-led Florida House last week struck down a proposal by Democrats to consider a ban on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines in the state.
“How could they do that to us? Are you kidding me??? #Never again,” tweeted Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who has become vocal in her support for gun control following the shooting. “We are not forgetting this come midterm elections – the anger that I feel right now is indescribable.”
It appears this time around, the survivors of the massacre are taking it upon themselves to get involved in the national debate regarding guns and school safety. Two events, organized largely by students, have been planned: the National School Walkout on March 14 and the March for Our Lives on March 24, where participants will take to the streets of Washington, D.C., in the hopes of raising awareness about gun violence and school shootings.
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