Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said the guns and schools proposal announced Friday by Republican Gov. Rick Scott has some things he supports but called Scott’s plan inadequate and said that the governor was not listening to what Floridians really want following the latest mass shooting: universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.
“Gov. Scott should have been listing to the people of Florida. But instead he has been listening to the NRA. And as a result he has missed the major two components that the people of Florida are demanding, because they don’t want any more massacres, any more slaughters” Nelson told reporters in Orlando Friday.
“And that is a comprehensive criminal background check in the purchase of a gun, as well as get the assault rifles off our streets,” Nelson said.
Scott’s office replied that Nelson is wrong, that the governor did listen carefully to many students, families and others in the days since the Parkland massacre and his proposal is a result of their requests. His office said he has not spoken to the NRA since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings, and noted the NRA opposes some of the package, notably the governor’s recommendation to raise the minimum age to 21 for the purchase of assault weapons.
Nelson’s response was sent as U.S. senator to state governor, and was offered from the confines of Nelson’s Orlando U.S. Senate office. But it might as well have come from a campaign stop, as it defines a difference between the two that is likely to be a fundamental election campaign contrast in what likely is the showdown pairing for this year’s U.S. Senate election in Florida. Scott, though, has not yet filed or announced any challenge to Nelson’s job.
Nelson found a few things he liked in the package that Scott and Republican lawmakers rolled out Friday morning in their comprehensive plans for school safety and to address gun violence, following last week’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, and this week’s protest rallies in Tallahassee led by Douglas High students who survived that mass shooting.
Nelson said he appreciates and shares the governor’s desire to “harden” schools, provide funding for school security and mental health, and banning bump stocks, but said the other proposals about guns in Florida were weak, bare-minimum responses, and inadequate.
Nelson is one of the sponsors of a bill in the U.S. Senate seeking to ban more than 200 kinds of semi-automatic weapons.
He repeated his contention that the data is clear and overwhelming that the high-powered, rapid-shooting guns’ availability has led to massive increases in mass killings, noting the periods before, during and after the sales of the guns were banned from 1994-2004. The ten year period before had 19 mass shootings with 155 deaths; the period during the ban, 12 shootings with 89 deaths, and the ten-year period after the ban was lifted, 34 shootings with 302 deaths, according to a Washington Post graphic he cited. And the post-period incidents do not include the Pulse massacre in Orlando, the concert massacre in Las Vegas, the school massacre in Parkland, or several in between, he noted.