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After the March For Our Lives, What's Next?

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Posted: Monday, April 2, 2018 10:15 am | Updated: 1:48 pm, Fri Apr 13, 2018.

   The attack on innocent students, educators, and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was an incomprehensible act of violence. When I visited the school and met with officials on the ground, I was both sobered and moved. Being both a parent and a former School Board member, I strongly believe schools must be a safe environment where students can learn and grow, and where families know their children are safe. The best way for elected officials to honor the fallen and their families is by taking meaningful action to prevent these tragedies in the future. That means ‎working to secure stronger regulations on guns, making sure law enforcement agencies have the resources to assess threats and intervene before it's too late, and investing in mental health and school security.

   I'm grateful Congress has taken action to provide federal support for school security by passing the bipartisan STOP School Violence Act, which I was proud to co-sponsor. The legislation was signed into law last week and increases federal assistance for school security, while promoting programs that would prevent these kinds of attacks in the future.

   The shooting has also stirred a long overdue national conversation about gun safety legislation to help prevent these tragedies. The young men and women of Parkland have been a true inspiration for all of us. In just a matter of weeks they have become a major force for good in our country's politics and their efforts have resulted in historic legislation that will reduce the threat of gun violence in Florida, but this was only a first step. Too often, we are alerted to loopholes and vulnerabilities that exist in our laws and regulations only after a tragedy occurs. We as a society must work together to close these loopholes and address these vulnerabilities, while still protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

   Since the Parkland shooting, I have called for Congressional action on several policies. First, we need to address the inadequacies in existing law by strengthening the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). I welcomed Congress's passage of legislation to do just that last week, ensuring all states are reporting into an improved NICS to provide a more complete picture of an individual's criminal history. We also need to address some of the vulnerabilities recent tragedies have brought to light. Passage of legislation I had previously introduced to ban "bump stocks," like the device used in Las Vegas last year, and legislation to prevent individuals with links to terrorist organizations from acquiring firearms, like the shooter at Pulse in Orlando did, would be a promising place to start.

   After looking at what happened in Parkland, I also co-sponsored legislation to raise the age for the purchase of long guns to 21, with exceptions for those in our military, and have called for banning civilians from accessing military-style weapons with language that would not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. While there's still much to be done to make these proposals reality, fortunately, momentum is moving in the right direction. Last week, the bipartisan and bicameral Problem Solvers Caucus endorsed my legislation to ban devices known as "bump stocks," among several other common-sense proposals. This package would be a significant step toward limiting some of the dangerous accessories that aim to circumvent existing laws.

   I've had the privilege of meeting with several groups of Parkland survivors and parents on multiple occasions in Washington and South Florida to discuss their views on gun control legislation and strengthening school safety, including during a televised forum on Telemundo. I'm honored to stand with them and support their advocacy and participation in our democracy. To have witnessed firsthand what these young people have accomplished is stirring, and these conversations were so inspiring my staff and I decided to organize a meeting with high school student leaders from across our district later this Spring to discuss their advocacy priorities. But what these students accomplished last weekend was especially moving. Millions of activists across the country, including right here in South Florida, joined their cause by participating in the March For Our Lives.

   We cannot let the energy and spirit of the March fade. I hope the demonstrations will inspire more of my colleagues to support meaningful action here in Congress. While many of us on the right side of this issue, many others lack the political courage to stand against special interests and answer the call for action. Let's make sure that together, we don't stop demanding leaders do more to keep our families and communities safe.


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