Politics

‘Something Has to Happen’ After Florida School Shooting, Lawmakers Say

Republicans, Democrats debate steps to prevent further tragedies like Parkland massacre while protecting Second Amendment rights

Four days after the deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, left 17 victims dead, lawmakers took to the Sunday-morning news shows to push for and debate legislation that could prevent more mass shootings while still protecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

Suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz, 19, was charged Thursday with 17 counts of premeditated murder after he shot and killed students and staff members at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday.

Cruz had been expelled from the school and had a history of making violent threats. Democratic lawmakers immediately began calling for gun control legislation after the shooting, while GOP lawmakers advocated for greater emphasis on screening for mental health in background checks, while urging the nation not to get too carried away.

“We’ve kind of inherited this world of binary choices where we either have to repeal the Second Amendment or have no gun safety regulations whatsoever, and younger generations of Americans don’t see the world that way,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla., shown above, at right) said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week.” “I want to represent those people, and I want to get something done.”

Curbelo said that “something has to happen” when it comes to gun legislation and restrictions.

“I’m one of those members of Congress who is trying to get us closer to that point where we can have bipartisan legislation that will help mitigate or prevent some of these types of situations in the future,” Curbelo said. “We do have to do better on gun safety legislation. We also have to do mental health.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said on “This Week” that the American people “want action,” noting he’s heard “how frustrated people are with rhetoric.”

“Do you support universal background checks, yes or no?” Deutch (shown above, at left) asked GOP lawmakers. “Do you support the terror watch list bill that says if you’re too dangerous to fly, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun? And do you support what had been the law until 2004, which was a ban on assault rifles that are made for no purpose other than maximum killing?”

“There are bills that we can pass tomorrow, but the things we need to do are the ones I just outlined,” Deutch argued.

Curbelo said, “What we need is [for] congressional leaders, specifically in my party, to allow some of these bills to come to the floor for debate.”

“There are a lot of Republicans who are prepared to support reasonable, common-sense gun safety laws, new laws, stronger laws that protect rights for responsible citizens, people who are responsible gun owners, but will prevent those who want to do harm to innocent people from obtaining these weapons,” Curbelo said.

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When asked why Democrats “didn’t make gun control a priority” when they had control of Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “many of us tried to make it a priority and many of us tried to get it done, but we weren’t successful.”

“This has been a bipartisan challenge. It’s been a much bigger challenge in the GOP. But it’s been a challenge in the Democratic Party as well,” Schiff admitted. “I’m firmly of the view, if you’re not out there and part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, and voters need to turn you out. How much more of this are we going to take? How many more shootings?”

“It’s time that Congress got off its backside and did what the country has been demanding, stare down the NRA and do the right thing,” Schiff added. “And anyone who doesn’t of any party ought to fear the wrath of the voters.”

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that the country needs a “more extensive” background check system so that dangerous individuals don’t slip through the cracks when attempting to buy guns legally. Noting that the Parkland community has “every reason to be grieved and incredibly furious” with the country’s current system, Lankford said that “all the warning signs were there” in Cruz’s case.

“We have determined, as a country, that only a court can actually take away a constitutional right. And the right to keep and bear arms is a constitutional right,” Lankford said. “So we have courts that step in on mental health and other things. There are ways to be able to do this to make sure that we keep the system clean and clear.”

Related: Rubio, Gowdy Urge Passage of Laws That Actually ‘Will Prevent the Next Mass Killing’

When “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked Lankford what should be done about AR-15 guns like the one Cruz used, the senators said, “The problem is not owning an AR-15. [It’s] the person that owns it.”

“I have individuals in my neighborhood that own an AR-15. That doesn’t make it a dangerous neighborhood or them dangerous individuals,” Lankford said. “It’s the individual themself [sic] [who] becomes the issue, not the weapon that they’re holding.”

“I applaud their activism and, and if I were them, I’d be as angry as they are.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) told Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that he was “sorry that you have grown up in a generation that has only known violence and there is no sanctuary, there is no place of refuge. The schools aren’t safe, the churches aren’t safe, the concerts.”

“I would encourage them to look at three components. The shooter himself, the instrumentality, and then any form of mitigation, whether it is magazine capacity, whether it is the speed with which the projectile is expelled,” Gowdy said. “But you have to look at all three, you have to look at the shooter, and you have to look at the instrumentality by which that shooter is killing people. I applaud their activism and, and if I were them, I’d be as angry as they are.”

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

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