Florida is not new to debates on gun control. In fact, we are a political hotbed for these types of conversations, and rightfully so. Our state has seen the worst.
After all, the first mass shooting of 2019 was in Tallahassee, Florida.
On Valentine’s day of 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire and killed 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, making it one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history. Six months later, similar events unfolded in Jacksonville when two people were killed and several injured before the shooter, David Katz, turned the gun on himself during a Madden video game tournament. In November, six women were shot and two were fatally killed in a Tallahassee yoga studio.
This past week in Sebring, Florida, five women were shot execution style inside a SunTrust bank. This state has been through a great amount of tragedy this past year, and that’s not factoring in the shootings at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and those at Fort Lauderdale Airport in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Surely, we have to attribute the prevalence of mass shootings to other issues. The Tallahassee shooter, Scott Beierle, was a self-described “incel,” a term that internet posters use to mean involuntary celibate. Members of the incel community are known for demonizing women, and the Sebring shooter’s premeditated act targeted women.
The other shooters, Nikolas Cruz and David Katz, are also the typical story of young, white males with mental issues who purchase guns and go on killing sprees.
But this still doesn’t explain why these tragedies keep happening in Florida. There are misogynistic men and those with mental health issues all over the country, so why does this constant trauma and death always return to our doorstep?
It could be our gun laws.
Floridians care about their guns; the Second Amendment, giving citizens the right to bear arms, is outlined in the very first article of Florida’s constitution. The ownership rate of guns in the state is 32.5 percent, higher than the national average of 29.1 percent. Guns are ingrained in our culture as seen by our notorious gun shows and Stand Your Ground law, the latter of which was a key factor in the shooting and death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Another debatable law that the state has upheld allows individuals to purchase firearms from private dealers without a background check .
After Parkland, however, there were some changes. Following the shooting, many states, including Florida, passed new gun control laws. Three weeks after the shooting, Former Gov. Rick Scott passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. The bill includes provisions that raise the minimum age to purchase a gun and allow law enforcement to bar a person from owning guns for up to a year with the approval of a judge if they deem the person dangerous due to mental illness. Though the bill was comprehensive and filled in some legislative gaps, background checks on private gun sales are still not required, and you do not have to register a gun in Florida.
We tried, but Sebring showed us that we need to try harder. The first mass shooting of 2019 was in Tallahassee, Florida. We need to do more.
Not many people will remember this shooting, and who can blame us? There is so much going on with our government and the world that our national consciousness can only take so much. The Parkland students took a tragedy, mobilized and then used their voices to spark change that allowed our state to finally implement stricter gun laws. Many people had to die before our state government paid attention. How many more people need to die before we fix our laws for good?