Advocates, Fla. Dems Urge GOP-Controlled Legislature To Consider Gun Reforms

Mar 16, 2017

Joined by Democratic lawmakers and other gun control advocates, Brandon Wolf (middle) is a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub shooting that left 49 people dead and dozens more injured in Orlando.
Credit Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

Gun control advocates joined Florida Democrats at the Capitol Thursday, calling on the Republican-controlled legislature to hear their gun safety bills.

For Brandon Wolf, it’s still hard to sleep at night.

“I still wake up screaming, covered in sweat,” he said. “Nine months ago, I hid in a bathroom stall. The smell of blood and smoke burning my nose, while a man strolled through the doors of Pulse Nightclub and opened fire. I listened to gun shot after gun shot. I stared death in the face.”

The 28-year-old is a survivor of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. The worst mass shooting in modern American history left 49 people dead and dozens more injured. Wolf’s two friends—Drew Leinonen and Juan Guerrero—were among those killed by the gunman.

“In just one minute, he got off 30 rounds, and while I sat frozen on that floor, 13 of those rounds killed my best friends,” he added. “So, I hope you can forgive me for not understanding on where we finally draw the line.  When is enough, enough? It wasn’t enough where 49 people were murdered at Pulse? It wasn’t enough when a movie theater became a hunting ground? And, it certainly wasn’t enough when we served up kindergarten children as sacrifices.”

Referring to other shootings around the U.S.—like Sandy Hook—Wolf says it’s time for the Florida legislature to act by giving sense gun control reforms get a committee hearing.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Wolf continued. “I know that background checks aren’t a cure-all and that gun reform is truly a sticky subject. But, when it’s our friends and families being targeted for your target practice, it’s high time we stopped throwing up our hands and crossing our fingers and hoping for luck. We need real change.”

So far, bills supported by the National Rifle Association—which could increase access or use of firearms—have had hearings. One making changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law passed the Senate Wednesday.

“I am disappointed that we passed that legislation,” said Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Fort Lauderdale). “But, it was taken up, it was heard, it was argued, and the members were allowed to vote. We would simply like that opportunity with our gun safety legislation.”

Farmer is one of several Democrats who have filed gun reforms that have yet to get hearings. Farmer’s bill would require background checks for purchased firearms at gun shows.

“There is no requirement for a background check to be conducted at a gun show,” he added. “So, if you’re a domestic violence offender, if you’re someone with a checkered past, if you’re someone who is mentally imbalanced, what are you going to do? You’re going to wait and go to a gun show so you can purchase a firearm and not have to undergo any background check. That is simply wrong.”

There’s also a bill by Sen. Daphne Campbell (D-Miami) to require potential concealed weapons license holders to undergo a mental health evaluation.

“Can you imagine,” she asked. “I send my child to school, and I get one phone call, [saying]’my child is gone by someone who’s sick mentally.’ No one knew! But, he has a gun permit. It’s a simple bill. Before you have a gun permit, I need to know if you’re sick or not.”

If the bills don’t get a hearing by the GOP-controlled legislature, Florida Democratic lawmakers vow they’ll keep filing them year after year.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.