Gun Control-The Orlando Times
New Gun Control Proposals Have Opponents, Advocates
BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Valentine’s Day, a day of love displayed was marred by murder and bloodshed, in the wake of a South Florida School shooting.
It’s been two weeks since the mass shooting that took the lives of seventeen students, wounded many more and created a call for new gun control legislation, a remaining, ongoing, often partisan debate in American politics.
Nineteen year old Nikolas Cruz gunned down fourteen students and three staff members on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
The National Rifle Association, better known as the NRA, has once more come under fire for their lukewarm stances on gun control and are subject to a greater degree of organized scrutiny than what faced the organization in years past.
The Trump administration directed the Justice Department last Tuesday to develop regulations that would ban bump stocks, devices that are used to make legal semi-automatic weapons fire in a similar fashion to machine guns.
The gun accessory drew national attention after last fall’s murders in Las Vegas, during which a shooter rigged his weapons with bump stocks before opening fire on a country music concert in an attack that killed fifty-eight people and injured five hundred additional.
President Donald Trump signed into law last year a bill that rolled back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for individuals with mental illnesses to purchase a gun.
The rule, which was finalized in December, added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database.
Had the rule fully taken effect, the Obama administration predicted it would have added about 75,000 names to that database.
Former President Barack Obama recommended the now-nullified regulation in a 2013 memo following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first graders and six others dead. The measure sought to block some people with severe mental health problems from buying guns.
Trump laid out his gun control proposals in a tweet last Thursday.
“I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks!
Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope! ,” he said.
The White House has also said it wants to look into the background check system. At a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, Sanders said the President supported efforts to reform the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used to determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to purchase a firearm.
“The key in all of these efforts, as I said in my remarks the day after the shooting, is that we cannot merely take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference,” Trump said at the White House. “We must actually make a difference.”
Shooters in several recent massacres were able to purchase weapons due to breakdowns in the system, including the two men who carried out attacks on churches in Sutherland Springs, Tex. in 2017 and Charleston, S.C. in 2015.
The Texas shooter was able to legally purchase a weapon despite having been convicted of domestic violence and discharged from the Air Force for bad conduct. The Air Force has said it failed to report the shooter’s criminal history to the NICS system.
“I know background checks are something that the President is supportive of making more efficient and looking at better ways to improve that process,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “And we’re going to continue to look at a number of other factors as well.” Before he became a presidential candidate, Trump wrote in a 2000 book that he supported a ban on assault weapons. But he reversed that position in 2015 and campaigned on strong support for Second Amendment rights.
Last Wednesday, Trump met with parents, students and teachers who have been impacted by gun violence, including families and survivors of the Parkland shooting. “We’re going to pick out the strongest ideas, the most important ideas, the ideas that are going to work and we’re going to get them done,” Trump said at the beginning of the listening session. “It’s not going to be talk, like it’s been in the past. It’s gone on too long.” He said he would be “very strong” on background checks and would put a “strong emphasis” on mental health.
Congress, in particular Democrats, and even GOP legislators, have scoffed at and parted with the Trump administration’s decisions on gun control.
An earlier supporter of the Trump campaign, Florida Governor Rick Scott has broken with the administration and in contrast announced a proposal on Friday to increase restrictions on buying guns and to strengthen school safety measures.
Scott said he would work with state lawmakers during coming weeks to raise the minimum age for buying any kind of gun in Florida to 21 years old, with some exceptions for younger military members and law enforcement officers. Long guns, including the semiautomatic AR-15-style assault rifle used in the Feb. 14 attack, can be bought by people as young as 18 under current law.
The NRA has since scoffed at the Trump administration for these proposals as well as other Republican officials.
At present, First National Omaha Bank, Enterprise Holdings, Allied and North American van Lines, Avis and Budget Car Rental, Hertz Corp and Met Life are some of the companies that have decided against renewing their contracts with the NRA.
In the wake of the South Florida School shooting, three Central Florida school students were detained for making threats.
Dr. Walt Griffin, Superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools, has mandated two resources officers on six schools throughout Seminole County in response to school safety concerns.
The executive actions signed by President Obama on gun control were:
Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Addressing unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), that may prevent states from making information available to NICS.
Improving incentives for states to share information with NICS.
Directing the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
Proposing a rule making to give law enforcement authorities the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
Publishing a letter from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
Starting a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
Reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
Releasing a report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and making it widely available to law enforcement authorities.
U.S. Rep. Val Demings (Orlando, FL), a former police chief, is a cosponsor of the Gun Violence Restraining Order Act.
The act would set up procedures by which families can ask a local court to prevent a loved one from owning a firearm, if the court finds that the individual poses a risk of injury to themselves or others. Senator Nelson also backs the idea. The bill has 60 cosponsors in the U.S. House. However, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has refused to move the bill forward.
“We live in a country where 150,000 children have experienced a school shooting. We are inflicting the horrors of war on our own children.” Said Congresswoman Demings. “Families are our first line of defense. If something is wrong, it is nearly always a loved one who notices first. The mother of the Parkland shooter called police dozens of times about her son. If this law had been in place, law enforcement officers might have been able to take the shooter’s guns before he could use them on our children.”