Standing idle on gun violence is not an option
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy, where 14 students and three teachers were massacred Feb. 14, is yet another reminder that we must rethink guns in our country right now. Since January, there have been eight school shootings.
The Parkland community will never be the same. Those who lost a brother, sister, daughter or son will never be the same. No parent should lose a child this way.
But with each heartbreaking tragedy, we seem to learn nothing and simply provide lip-service without coming up with any actual solutions. How many innocent lives must be taken before action happens? We need to stop placing temporary Band-Aids on the problem and get to the root of it – even if that means having hard conversations.
Gun violence is an epidemic in America. Parkland was the deadliest school shooting since a gunman took 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn. It was also the 239th school shooting since Sandy Hook. This is beyond unacceptable. We must take the necessary steps to enact responsible legislation and regulations that can reduce the number of lives destroyed due to gun violence.
We should all agree with little debate that AR-15s – the type of weapon used in the 10 most recent mass shootings – and other military style weapons have no place in the hands of children. Another small, but necessary, step we can take now is to change the age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21, a measure I, along with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-22), have introduced.
Additional measures that should be considered, which I have co-sponsored, would ensure guns are kept out of the hands of domestic abusers, criminals and the mentally ill. We can do this by strengthening our National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and by passing Fix NICS legislation, which has bipartisan support.
Last week, I was humbled to attend the Never Again Rally at the Florida Capitol and speak with students. As I stood on the steps of the old Capitol, looking out at the crowd of the thousands of students from across this state, it was awe-inspiring. The strength of the student speakers was powerful.
These students, like all Americans, are demanding action from their government to prevent future mass shootings. Gun violence should not be tolerated, and standing idle is no longer an option.
We send our students to school to learn — not to look over their shoulders and live in fear. No American should ever feel unsafe when in school, in church or at home.
The nation is watching Florida right now. It is waiting to see how we handle this. It is disheartening that it took a tragedy such as the one in Broward County for eyes to be opened, but it is my hope we will respond swiftly to ensure these incidents never happen again.
The time for inaction is over. Democrats and Republicans must come to the table to create common sense solutions that will ultimately protect all Americans.
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson representatives Florida’s Fifth Congressional District, which stretches from Gadsden County to Jacksonville.