By: Sharon Aron Baron
Tamarac residents are weighing in after learning how their state elected officials voted on the recently passed gun control bill.
After the Parkland shootings left 17 dead and 16 injured, surviving students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland petitioned for changes to the gun law. On Wednesday evening, the Florida State House joined the State Senate in passing several measures, and if Governor Rick Scott signs it into law, Florida will have its most successful gun control measure in more than 20 years.
State Rep. Russell Barrington, who represents the eastern portion of Tamarac voted no to the bill, and state Rep. Jared Moskowitz, who represents the western portion of the city voted yes. State Sen. Perry Thurston, whose district covers the entire city, voted no. Thurston was quoted in the Sun Sentinel last week after hundreds of activists came up to Tallahassee demanding change.
“Being from Broward County, this has landed in my front yard,” said state Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. “This is the students’ No. 1 request when they come to us.”
But Thurston must have forgotten those students just days later when he voted no on the bill.
Tamarac resident Doug Maesk, who is running for city commissioner, applauded Rep. Moskowitz, but said he was disappointed Sen. Thurston did not vote for reasonable, common sense reforms as well as the three-day waiting period, tighter background checks and increased mental health funding, which he said, are all positive steps in the right direction.
“I don’t think we need any more evidence that something needs to be done,” said Maesk. “My hope going forward is that both of our state legislators will be strong voices, as I intend to be, in this ongoing effort to address gun violence in our communities.”
Tamarac resident Kevin Muscolino, who is represented by both Thurston and Barrington, said it was horrible and he will remember it come election time. “They do not see or respect the will of the people, but they will soon. Change is coming,” he said.
The gun-control bill includes: voting to raise the age to purchase a firearm to 21 from 18 – this could have prevented Nikolas Cruz, 19, from buying the rifle he used in his massacre. Require a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases – with some exceptions, Ban the sale or possession of bump fire stocks, which allow a semiautomatic weapon to fire more like an automatic weapon. The new law will also give law enforcement more authority to seize weapons and ammunition from those deemed mentally unfit or otherwise a threat, like the school shooter was. Also, it will provide additional funding for armed school resource officers and mental health services.
“We’re in a Republican state, and this is the south,” said Marcia King Gamble who is represented by both Thurston and Barrington. “They both are an embarrassment and clearly in someone’s pockets.”
One of the provisions that students did not want, but was included the bill was arming some school staff including counselors, coaches and librarians – but not full-time teachers. This $67 million “marshal” program would be strictly voluntary, highly regulated, but lacks an incentive for the all-volunteer program since there would be no extra pay to train or participate.