- Josh Horwitzexecutive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. He is the co-author of Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea.
Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, there have been 200 school shootings. But on Capitol Hill and in many state legislatures, Republican lawmakers have blocked efforts to enact gun control. Wednesday’s shooting in Florida comes just days after President Trump released his budget, which proposes cutting millions of dollars from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. We speak to Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. He is the co-author of “Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea.”
NERMEEN SHAIKH: In Florida, 17 people died Wednesday in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. The massacre at the Stoneman Douglas High School and Parkland, Florida, was the 18th school shooting this year, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. I want to go back to a student speaking to a reporter outside Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday.
STUDENT: All I know is that all the kids were—came inside the rooms and everything. There were teachers pulling us in and telling us to like get in the rooms and be quiet. And so, yeah, we were just OK, I guess, so…
REPORTER: And how are you two related?
STUDENT: This is my mom.
REPORTER: Mom, how did you feel to hug your son?
MOTHER: Oh, my god, you don’t understand. It’s just so—oh, what a joy! Oh, it’s such a joy and everything. I just hope all the other kids are OK. And, oh, my god!
AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun violence, co-author of Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea.
So, Josh, you have this community in Florida. The safest city in Florida, it was just rated, the 15th safest city in the country. And yet you see what happens here happens all over the country. Can you talk about your reaction, what you’re calling for now, what the coalition is calling for?
JOSH HORWITZ: Well, I think, first, no parent in America should have to go through this. And we’re seeing this in towns and cities across America. There is no place that is now safe from this type of terrible tragedy. And for every parent out there, it’s heartbreaking. And as a parent myself, I know the feeling. You hug your kids a little tighter, and you hope it’s not in your school. And it’s just an absolute tragedy that this happens in America, 18 school shootings this year alone. We’ve seen terrible shootings in the past.
I think what we need to do in America is take this seriously. Rick Scott, the governor, said, “How can this happen here?” It’s already happened three times in the last two years in Florida. Florida has terrible gun laws. They allow people to buy—18-year-olds to buy AR-15s, weapons of war. And for people who don’t know what an AR-15 assault weapon is, it’s centerfire rifle, a powerful round, that takes a detachable high-capacity magazine and has a pistol grip and a barrel shroud. And the reason you have a weapon like that is to make sure you can keep your muzzle on the target round after round. It’s designed to kill people. The idea that we let these free flow in society is just wrong.
The second thing that we’re calling for is something called a gun violence restraining order. Now, a number of states have recently enacted this, including Connecticut, California, Washington, Oregon. And what that does is it gives family members and law enforcement the ability to remove a firearm when they feel someone is in crisis, a danger to self or others. And we’ve seen, potentially, this person may have passed—the shooter may have passed a background check, because they didn’t have, for instance, a felony conviction. Well, we need to make sure that when people are descending into a crisis, when they are acting violently, when they have all the indicia that they’re going to be violent—they’ve talked about violence, they’ve gotten into fights, they’ve got a store of weapons—that we have the ability to call a timeout and say, “Whatever is going on here, let’s get the weapons out of these people’s hands.” And so, we need these types of laws. We need to make sure that we don’t have assault weapons in society. And we need the ability to get these—you know, once someone has a weapon like that, to get it out of their hands, when they’re acting clearly—you know, showing signs of violence. And we need to do that now.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, shortly after the shooting on Wednesday, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, quote, “Today is that terrible day you pray never comes.” He later tweeted, quote, “In days ahead will become increasingly evident that killer in todays #FloridaSchoolShooting gave plenty of indications of what was to come,” end-quote. Numerous people on social media responded to Rubio’s tweets by pointing to an October New York Times article headlined “Thoughts and Prayers and N.R.A. Funding,” which revealed Rubio has received more than $3 million from the NRA. That’s the National Rifle Association of America. Speaking to Fox News Wednesday, Rubio said it was premature to talk about gun control since, quote, “people don’t know how this happened.” We hear first from Fox News’s Pete Doocy.
PETER DOOCY: Some of your colleagues in the Senate, here from Washington, D.C., have already been trying to make this about policy and about gun control. Is this the appropriate time to be doing that?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Only—it’s not, only because people don’t—they don’t know how this happened, I mean, how—who this person is, what motivated them, how did they get a hold of the weapon that they used for this attack. I think it’s important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there’s some law that we could have passed that could have prevented it. There may be, but shouldn’t we at least know the facts? And so, I think that you can always have that debate, but if you’re going have the debate about this particular incident, you should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law that you claim could have prevented it. I’ve seen a lot of that on television. And maybe there is a law that could have prevented this instance, but we don’t know that, and neither do they.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So that’s Florida Senator—Republican Senator Marco Rubio saying yesterday that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. And also The New York Times piece from October, just a few months ago, pointing to the fact that he has received $3 million—over $3 million from the NRA. So, Josh Horwitz, can you respond to that?
JOSH HORWITZ: Well, look, thoughts and prayers just aren’t enough. If you don’t—you know, if you’re not taking action, then you don’t care. And I will say that Senator Rubio has had two years since the Pulse nightclub to do something. He hasn’t. He has never—you know, even after the incident’s done, he has never stood up and said, “We need to do something to stop these killings. We need to do something to reduce acts of gun violence.”
And here’s the bottom line—and I’m talking to the people of Florida: If you want this to stop happening, you have to have new leaders. I know people are frustrated with Congress. Congress is a frustrating place. But there’s a chance to make a statement, and that is in November 2018, when we have elections across this country. And we need to make a statement. And that statement has to be: If you don’t care about reducing gun violence, then we don’t want you in the Congress, and we don’t want you in our state House. That’s got to be clear. And voters need to go to the polls ready to elect people who support gun violence prevention laws and ready to get rid of people who don’t. And that’s how this is going to change. Marco Rubio is not all of a sudden—I wish he would, but I don’t think he will wake up tomorrow and say, “We need to restrict AR-15s,” or “We need a gun violence restraining order in Florida, these types of laws.” So, if he’s not going to do it, then we need new leaders. It’s just as simple as that.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, what is amazing is that the overwhelming majority of people across the political spectrum in the United States are for more gun control. Three of the four last gun control measures were passed. I wanted to go to the Senate floor yesterday, where the Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy condemned Congress’s inaction in addressing gun violence.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY: Let me just note once again for my colleagues that this happens nowhere else other than the United States of America, this epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting. It only happens here, not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else. As a parent, it scares me to death that this body doesn’t take seriously the safety of my children. And it seems like a lot of parents in South Florida are going to be asking that same question later today.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, of course, from the state where Sandy Hook happened, where so many children were gunned down in their elementary school. Donald Trump did not respond to the shooting yesterday. He did tweet out, early this morning, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” A lot of people talk about American exceptionalism, Josh Horwitz. Here, you have Murphy saying we’re alone in the industrialized world in having this level of mass shootings that occur, whether we’re talking about mental health or not. Your final comments?
JOSH HORWITZ: Well, the reason is because we’re the only country, industrialized country, who allows easy access to AR-15s and associated weaponry.
I want to address, though, what Donald Trump said, the president said. And I think it’s very disingenuous and way too easy to just play sort of—say it’s something about mental illness. Most people with mental illness are never going to be violent. We need to look at the actual indicia of violence and stop stigmatizing people who are mentally ill, and start developing tools for law enforcement and parents and others, so when people are in a crisis, for whatever reason, and they have easy access to firearms, to get their guns, to get the guns out of their hands. It’s so easy just to sort of toss this into the mental health pile, but that is not going to stop violence. And the reason is because most people with mental illness aren’t going to be violent. But there are people who are stockpiling weapons, who are acting in a dangerous way. Those are the people we need to focus on, and not hide behind the trope of mental illness. We need to focus on the people who are acting dangerously.
AMY GOODMAN: I thank you, Josh Horwitz, for joining us. And to clarify, Trump tweeted yesterday, but he did not address the nation, although, apparently, reports are that his aides were advising him to. And I want to end with an issue that is so often connected to these mass shootings, and it’s violence or harassment of women. Remember, Adam Lanza, in the Sandy Hook shooting, had killed his mother first. The New York Times is reporting that Mr. Cruz was obsessed with a girl at the school to the point of stalking her, a point the authorities did not raise in news briefings near the scene. We’ll continue to cover the aftermath of this mass killing at the Parkland school in Florida. Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, author of Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea.
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