U.S. Reps. Deutch, Frankel urge opposition to guns on campus legislation
Flanked by mothers holding pictures of relatives killed by gun violence, U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch held a press conference at Palm Beach State College today, urging opposition to bills in the Florida Legislature that would allow individuals with a concealed weapons license to carry firearms on college and university campuses.
“This Legislature is about to turn Florida into the Wild West,’’ said Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, noting the impact that the proposed legislation could have on the state at a time when the nation already is experiencing a rise in gun deaths and mass shootings.
The Senate Bill, SB 68, filed by Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Greg Evers, R-Pensacola, passed that committee Sept. 16 and is on the agenda for the Senate Higher Education Committee on Oct. 20. The House Bill, HB 4001, filed by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Sept. 9 and could next be heard in the Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee.
Deutch, D-Boca Raton, said 12,000 Americans are murdered every year with guns, and the nation’s murder rate with guns is 20 times the average of other developed countries. He said that there are 20,000 gun suicides and 75,000 gun injuries each year in the U.S.
“We have to ask ourselves two things: Why isn’t Congress doing more, and why is the Florida Legislature taking steps to make things worse?” he said.
Although Deutch is a member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, he said there has not been a single hearing on gun violence, not even after the Newtown shootings that left 20 children dead three years ago or any highly publicized mass shooting. He said that special interest groups block every measure to tackle the issue. He rejected arguments by proponents of such legislation that allowing more guns will help save lives.
Among those also speaking at the press conference were Florida Rep. Lori Berman, D- Lantana, Florida Senator Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and community stakeholders, including Arlene Ustin of the League of Women Voters, Angela Williams, founder of the Mothers Against Murderers Association and Kathryn Grant of Keep Guns Off Campus.
They all spoke against the proposed legislation, calling instead for sensible solutions to the gun violence and a closer look at the issue of mental health.
Similar legislation was debated during the 2015 legislative session, but it stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee and on the House Calendar. The Association of Florida Colleges, which advocates on behalf of the Florida College System, has launched a battle against the proposed legislation.
“A college campus is not a place for firearms,’’ Berman said. “More guns just means more chances for people to get hurt.”
“I’m not sure why anyone would think that’s a good idea,’’ Clemens said.
Williams, who founded MAMA in 2003 after losing her nephew and other family members to gun violence, said there are already too many weapons on the street.
“Every time we hear of a shooting, it opens old wounds for these mothers,’’ she said glancing at the mothers standing behind her who help comprise the group’s current roster of 297 members.