In the wake of yet another horrific massacre in our state and as students’ outraged voices join the growing cry demanding action, the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and the League of Women Voters of Florida are holding a Rally to Support Gun Safety Reform at noon today on the steps of the Historic Florida Capitol.
Since planning the rally, the actions of many of our state legislators have dramatically demonstrated why voices must be raised. As the country – and in fact, the world – watched, the Florida House of Representatives defeated a move to debate a ban on assault weapons on Tuesday, just days after the shooting. Also watching in person from the gallery: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students.
“First, they were witnesses to the murders of their friends and then they were witnesses to a shocking vote by their elected officials,” said Patricia Brigham, Coalition co-chair and 1st vice president of the state League. “You could hear them sobbing as a contingency of legislators proved they care more about the gun lobby than the lives of our children.”
For the past two legislative sessions, the Coalition and League have supported a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Sen. Linda Stewart have introduced bills calling for these bans, but neither have been placed on their legislative committees’ agenda to be heard.
At today’s rally, dozens of students, many who have spoken passionately and eloquently in recent days, will lead the charge for meaningful change. Afterward, petitions that contain thousands of signatures calling for the assault weapon and large-capacity magazine bans will be delivered to Gov. Rick Scott.
“We demand these bills be heard – and passed,” said Brigham. “What possible argument can be made that legislation designed to loosen gun laws get a full airing year after year, while smart gun safety bills languish? Our legislators are literally allowing our residents – our children – to be slaughtered.”
The fact that the 19-year-old who killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week legally bought the AR-15 rifle he used for the premeditated murders should be catalyst enough to move our legislators to action.
“After the latest horrific tragedy in Parkland, Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature must act now to ban military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines,” said Andy Pelosi, co-chair of the Coalition and director of The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. “Our students and staff need to know that they are safe. The time for action is now.”
The rally will include a number of speakers, including students, Sen. Gary Farmer, Rep. Smith, Angie Gallo of Florida PTA, Brigham, and the Rev. Joe Parramore.
The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence was created by the League of Women Voters of Florida after the Pulse shooting to promote smart gun legislation. It has grown to include more than 120 local, state, and national organizations and includes such diverse groups as the Hispanic Federation, the Florida PTA, Equality Florida, the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, and Doctors for America.