Following Florida's Gun Debate

Feb 23, 2018

Thousands gather at the Florida capitol (2/21/18) to push for legislative action in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fl on Valentine's Day.
Credit Lydell Rawls / WFSU News

The tragic Parkland shooting is one of the most recent examples for a long running debate on gun control in this country. The spectrum of opinions can create either a stalemate or compromise, but at the moment a conversation is being had.

Brandon Wolf is a survivor of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. It is a battle he says he has been fighting ever since his experience. He has been pushing for greater gun regulations alongside the surviving students of the Parkland shooting.

“I felt hopeless. And over the next few months I realized that my hopelessness might be well founded. Because, at every turn, someone shushed me. Someone told me to sit down and be quiet. Someone told it wasn’t the right time to talk about what I went through. And when I saw on Valentine’s Day that there had been another shooting, and again this time it was children, I felt that same sense of hopelessness,” Wolf says.

The recent tragedy has sparked debate over gun laws, and, as Wolf says, its finally created movement in Florida’s Legislature.

“In 10 years, we haven’t gotten movement on this issue. And all it took was a group of angry children with the right message to slap some sense into somebody,” Wolf says.

Wolf, along with many gun control advocates, want stricter regulations on firearms. This is why anti-gun advocates are pushing for bans on high capacity magazine weapons, or, assault rifles. Andy Pelosi is the co-chair of Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. He says one specific gun, the semi-automatic rifle, is the cause of many mass shootings.

“Since 1980, there have been at least 60 mass shootings in the US, and the mass shooting we’re defining is three or more fatalities, where the shooter used a high capacity magazine. A magazine holding at least 10 rounds or more. Over 600 people were killed, and over a thousand were injured,” Pelosi says. 

Eric Friday is the General Counsel for Florida Carry, a gun rights group. He argues the issue is a matter of policy.  

“It doesn’t matter if there’s a majority of the people that want more gun control. We’re dealing with a fundamental right.” He says there is no clear definition of assault rifles. Many bans on assault rifles focus on cosmetic aspects and not fire rate, and Friday says no matter what either side pushes for, there is no changing a constitutional right.

"People have a liberty interest in owning such things. In having certain firearms they want to own," Fridays says.

He mentions the Supreme Court case of Heller and McDonald as the precedent gun owners follow when purchasing weapons.

“The Supreme Court has said that the second amendment protects arms that citizens can use in the defense of themselves, or in the service of the militia, that are in common use by the populis,” Friday says.

Common use means the most popular weapon amongst gun owners, which can range from a stun gun or an AR-15. According to Friday, it does not include specific military weapons.

“Military weapons are selective fire. Meaning they have the option to fire semi-automatic, or full automatic, or a certain number round burst. And those are already banned in the US, unless they were manufactured before 1986, and they cost $20,000 apiece, or more,” Friday says.

The AR-15 was created for the military in the 1950’s. It became available to the public in the early 1960’s.

But, as to the question of whether semi-automatics can be banned- Connecticut did so in 2013 after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. The law was challenged but courts have so far upheld it.