- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

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March 2



The Sun Sentinel says Sen. Marco Rubio has retracted his slight shift on guns:

After the killings in Parkland, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said he was willing to deal with the “gun part” of the debate over how to stop mass shootings.

He said it on the floor of the Senate the day after a gunman used an AR-15 military-style rifle to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

He said it again during media interviews, as parents in Parkland and Coral Springs made burial plans for their children.

But when it came time to walk the talk, the proposed reforms Rubio announced this week largely skip the “gun part.”

Rubio calls for improving school security, strengthening background checks and prosecuting more people who try to fool background checks. He also supports gun-violence restraining orders, which would let family members and law enforcement officers petition a judge to take guns away from - and prevent their sale to - people who pose a threat.

But missing from his plan is any call to raise the minimum age for buying assault-style rifles from 18 to 21, no matter that he told the CNN town hall gathering: “I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Neither does he call for banning high-capacity magazines, like the ones that allowed the Parkland shooter to fire so many bullets so fast. At the town hall, he said “evidence in this case” suggested such a ban might have saved lives.

Back in Washington, Rubio said he found no “widespread support” for those reforms.

In other words, the going got tough, so he gave up.

Instead, Rubio reverted to stale talking points. He said any reform cannot “unnecessarily or unfairly” infringe on the Second Amendment right of law-abiding adults “to protect themselves, hunt or participate in recreational shooting.”

Heaven knows, we wouldn’t want to protect our kids by trampling on someone’s right to target shoot.

Soon after the town hall where Rubio suggested he was willing to consider some changes, he defended assault weapons on Twitter and criticized his critics. “We claim a Judea-Christian heritage but celebrate arrogance & boasting. (And) worst of all we have infected the next generation with the same disease.”

He also retweeted a message that said banning semi-automatic weapons might have been popular at the town hall, “but it is a position well outside the mainstream.”

Marco Rubio pushes proposals to boost school safety, curb gun violence

Actually, 62 percent of Floridians support a ban on assault weapons, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

We’re not talking about banning all semi-automatic weapons, which automatically load the next bullet, but require a trigger pull to fire each round.

We’re talking about banning semi-automatic, military-style rifles that deliver devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullets and were the weapon of choice in Parkland; Orlando; Las Vegas; San Bernardino, California; Aurora, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut; and Sutherland Springs, Texas.

AR-15-style rifles fire bullets “three times faster than, and impart more than three times the energy of, a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun,” says Broward Health radiologist Heather Sher, who helped treat Parkland victims.

People with injuries from a semi-automatic handgun can often be saved, but that wasn’t the case in Parkland, Sher wrote in a column first published by The Atlantic. Organ damage in one victim “looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer,” she wrote. “The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different; they travel at higher velocity and are far more lethal.”

Rubio says that a ban wouldn’t work because “loopholes” would keep many rifles legal. Closing the loopholes, he tweeted, would mean having “to ban virtually all models of semi-auto rifles.”

He also notes that while the proposed ban would outlaw about 200 guns, it would keep more than 2,000 similar rifles legal.

But a partial solution is better than none. And if the proposal isn’t perfect, let him suggest amendments.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson supports a federal ban on military-style weapons. So should Rubio, our junior senator.

Voters sent Rubio to Washington to represent our interests, not throw up his hands because the going got tough.

Rubio received a lot of credit for showing up to the town hall and listening to grieving families. But actions speak louder than words. And given his failure to follow through, it should come as no surprise that the week ended with his approval ratings at an all-time low.

Online: http://www.sun-sentinel.com

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March 3

Miami Herald says Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel needs to release video footage from the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last month:

It’s imperative that Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel release video recordings of what his deputies did, and didn’t do, outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while Nikolas Cruz was on a killing spree inside.

First, Israel himself has said that the public needs to know this information. He’s right, and he should accommodate the people on whose behalf he and his deputies work. This is an extraordinary case in which his department bears a large share of responsibility for Cruz getting as far as he did without interference. Warning signs about Cruz’s dangerous mental state had come to the department’s attention over at least a decade.

Instead, Israel refuses to release the recordings, arguing that they are exempt from the state’s public record laws. He says that they reveal security plans and are part of ongoing investigations.

Reveal security plans? Nonsense. By the sheriff’s own admission, whatever security plans the Broward Sheriff’s Office had in place failed horribly when Cruz killed 17 people and injured 15. On Feb. 22, Israel disclosed the shocking information that school resource officer Scot Peterson stood outside for four minutes while the Cruz was inside, firing an AR-15.

Israel said that Peterson should have charged inside, confronted the gunman and killed him. Tough talk for the cameras, but several other deputies apparently did not go into the building, either.

Peterson resigned and, speaking through his lawyer last week, defended his actions. He said that he was not a coward and that he thought the shots were coming from outside.

Last week, the Herald obtained documents that show a BSO captain ordered deputies to form a perimeter, possibly after the shooting was over, and not telling them to rush into the building. This contradicts what Israel said was the protocol.

No, what the videos would reveal are not “security plans,” as the sheriff claims. Rather they will reveal that there was probably confusion over the plan, or flawed communication of said plan.

It’s obvious that, whatever the plan, it was hopelessly bungled that awful afternoon of Feb. 14. What in the world could the release of the video recordings possibly compromise now?

This is not just about who is to blame for whatever failures, or who needs to fall on a sword. The public needs to know that, should there be a “next time” - and words can’t convey how fervently we hope that there is not - this department knows what it’s doing.

Israel is under fire, from the public, from Republicans in the Legislature and from the media. The Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and CNN rightly have sued the BSO and Broward County School Board to pry loose surveillance video of the exterior of the school, showing the police response to the shooting. (The School Board says it has turned over its video to the BSO.) The media companies argue that the video recordings are of “extreme public interest.” And they are, absolutely. In addition, The Herald Sun-Sentinel and CNN want to determine for themselves whether the exemptions that the BSO cited to withhold the videos apply.

This is one of the starkest recent examples of why Florida’s progressive government-in-the-sunshine laws exist, and why Floridians must insist that state lawmakers stop rapidly chipping away at their right to know how public agencies are conducting the public’s business. For instance, some agencies now impose sky-high fees for people to access information.

Sheriff Israel, in a tone-deaf comment on CNN Sunday after the shooting, downplayed his deputies’ actions and played up his own “amazing leadership.”

We’re not persuaded. Amaze us, Sheriff Israel: Be that leader, release the videos.

Online: http://www.miamiherald.com

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March 7

The Florida Times-Union says a majority of Americans agree on key gun laws:

Americans, especially Republicans, should look to the experience of Ronald Reagan when it comes to guns.

Reagan’s presidency is viewed with saintly admiration by many.

Yet in 1994 he and two other former presidents - Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter - sent a letter to House members urging them to ban military-style weapons.

“While we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals,” the three ex-presidents wrote.

The assault weapon ban barely passed the House and took effect for 10 years until it expired in 2004.

Reagan had opposed gun regulations even after he was shot in 1991, reported The Washington Post. But later in life he began to change his position.

Clearly, an assault weapons ban still is debated. But there are many other reasonable conditions on gun ownership that are widely supported by the general public and deserve to be enacted.

The first is universal background checks along with an efficient system to enforce them. But even if the system is clunky, a gun should not be legally sold until a thorough background check is concluded.

This is what allowed Dylann Roof, the Charleston mass shooter, the ability to purchase a gun because the background check on him was not completed in three days and he was legally allowed to purchase a weapon anyway.

POLL RESULTS

According to a new scientific poll conducted by Quinnipiac University among Florida voters:

. 96 percent support background checks for all gun purchases.

. 92 percent support bans on anyone purchasing a gun who has a restraining order for domestic violence or stalking.

. 89 percent support allowing family members to petition a judge to remove guns from a person at risk of violent behavior.

. 87 percent support a mandatory waiting period.

Let’s stop right here. A total of 75 percent of Florida voters polled say that state government must do more to reduce gun violence. Let’s enact these reasonable and popular restrictions and then take a hard look at other proposals.

There still needs to be a great deal of research into gun violence involving which policies will reduce or prevent it.

Of course, due to the Second Amendment, Americans have a right to own a gun for personal protection. So any restrictions need to be carefully crafted.

The Supreme Court in its Heller decision has validated the right of Americans to own a gun but it also has specified the kind of conditions that can be imposed, such as prohibiting possession of guns by felons or the mentally ill or laws prohibiting guns in sensitive places like schools or government buildings.

NEW RESEARCH NEEDED

For more than 20 years, federal law has worked to prevent research into gun violence as a public health matter. A 1996 amendment prevents the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention from using funds to promote gun control.

The amendment wasn’t supposed to stop research but it did have a chilling effect.

Nevertheless, there have been some studies nationally. The RAND Corp. recently spent two years and $1 million to analyze thousands of studies into gun violence.

It found only 63 studies that found gun policies had an impact on reductions in homicide or suicide.

In some cases, the cause-effect relationships between policies and the impact on saving lives was only “moderate.”

The most effective policy involves laws that require guns to be stored unloaded or in locked containers. These policies, meant to reduce deaths of children, have reduced suicides and accidental deaths, RAND concluded.

Also requiring a permit issued by law enforcement does reduce violent crime.

There is moderate evidence that background checks reduce suicide and violent crime and there is limited evidence that prohibitions involving mental illness are effective.

Regarding Stand Your Ground laws, there is moderate evidence that they actually increase violent crime.

A small change in percentages can save many lives. For instance, a 3 percent reduction in firearm deaths nationally corresponds to 1,000 fewer deaths.

One often-ignored fact is that suicides take more lives every year than homicides and that more restrictive gun policies can help avoid these deaths.

Finally, RAND’s main conclusion is that much more research is needed.

Online: http://www.jacksonville.com

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