“When it comes to the Republicans, they’re very reactionary,” said state Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park. “And after every major mass shooting, we see they want to do something because the light is shining on them at that time. But as soon as the news cycle passes, they’re back to their old ways.”
The NRA holds sway
The law was passed over the fierce opposition of the National Rifle Association, and in the years since attempts have been made by some Republicans to claw back some of its provisions.
The NRA, though, is in a much weaker position than it was in 2016 thanks to its bankruptcy and legal troubles, including a lawsuit alleging that CEO Wayne LaPierre and other leaders spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on private charter planes, lavish gifts and personal expenses, according to media reports.
But Democrats said they believe when it comes to holding sway over Republicans, the NRA hasn’t lost much of a step.
“Despite what people think of the NRA, they’re investing millions of dollars right now nationally,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “... Even though they’re having issues, they continue to use their power to influence Republicans in Congress to prevent them from taking action to protect our communities.”
On the federal level, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park, cited Pulse as one of the reasons she decided to run for Congress just weeks later.
“One of the key areas that I focused on when I got to Congress was on trying to lift the 22-year ban on gun violence research,” she said. “And I’m proud to say that we were able to achieve that.”
Murphy introduced the research amendment onto a budget bill in 2018 and later locked down $25 million in funding for 16 studies, including the risk of suicides among U.S. Army soldiers.
“It was really the aftermath of Parkland that allowed that initiative to gain the bipartisan support he needed to get over the finish line and become law,” she said. “But more needs to be done.”
She pointed to the Democratic-controlled House’s passage of HR8, which requires background checks for all gun purchases. But it’s stalled in the Senate, where bills need 60 out of 100 votes in order to proceed because of the filibuster.
“If we continue down this path, we will see almost every American be touched by gun violence,’' Mucarsel-Powell said. “And these are not just numbers. These are our parents, our children, our loved ones, who are now in danger of losing their life when they go to school, when they go to church, when they go out shopping. It is happening everywhere.”
Jones concluded that increased familiarity may end up being what ultimately pushes reform forward.
“I’m a firm believer that until it happens to you, you remain as callous as you are,” Jones said. “And that’s exactly where the Republicans are at right now, [unlike] the Pulse parents and family members, or the parents of the kids from Parkland, or the mothers in Miami … So the only way change will happen is that, unfortunately, it will have to hit home.”
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