In January, a Second Amendment rights forum in Cocoa, Florida, was held to discuss how gun rights are faring in the state. The event featured grassroots activists, commentators, and even pro-gun Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini. The main focus was a critique of Florida’s controversial red flag law, which enables law enforcement to confiscate a person’s firearms if they are believed to pose a threat to themselves or others.
Both Democrats and Republicans were subjects of criticism, and rightfully so. On certain issues, such as gun rights, they have worked together to undermine Americans’ liberties. In the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, political figures looked to politicize the incident and use it as a justification to pass anti-gun legislation.
Red flag laws were among the most popular gun control policies pursued after the shooting. While the usual suspects — blue states — were leading the charge, a red state like Florida shockingly joined them when former governor and now U.S. senator, Rick Scott, approved an extensive gun control package following the Parkland tragedy, while having strong support from a Republican-controlled legislature. The bill, SB 7026, enacted red flag provisions, raised the firearm purchase age to 21 and set up a three-day waiting period for all firearms purchases.
This was a rather shocking development given Florida’s perception of being a solid, red state. It was rather curious that Scott previously signed a pro-gun measure, strengthening Florida’s Stand Your Ground law the year before. Nevertheless, his capitulation on gun rights shows that when political pressure is too strong, certain politicians will cave into it. When they have loose political principles on certain issues like the Second Amendment,
Unsurprisingly, Florida’s pro-gun rankings, per Guns & Ammo magazine, took a hit after the aforementioned gun control package became law. Starting in 2015, Florida stood at a respectable 12th place in the “Best States for Gun Owners” rankings. However, the state lost considerable ground after its gun control bonanza in 2018 and now occupies 24th place in the rankings.
One of the speakers, Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Bob White, noted that the Parkland massacre “was a failure of government at every level.” White’s comment specifically alluded to an Obama-era policy which did not allow school officials to discipline the perpetrator when he was showing warning signs, and then-Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel’s mishandling of the entire tragedy — from failing to prevent the incident from taking place based on the aforementioned warning signs, and the failure of his deputies to enter the school quickly enough as the massacre was unfolding. For this level of incompetence, Israel was removed from his position.
A red flag law would not be a compelling fix. After all, gun researcher John Lott observed data from 1970 to 2017 and came to the conclusion that “Red Flag laws appear to have had no significant effect on murder, suicide, the number of people killed in mass public shootings, robbery, aggravated assault or burglary. There is some evidence that rape rates rise. These laws apparently do not save lives.”
Furthermore, the state of Connecticut passed a red flag law in 1999, making it a forerunner in enacting such policies. Like many other forms of gun control, Connecticut’s red flag law could not prevent Adam Lanza from carrying out his horrendous massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
More legislation will likely not be the answer to America’s school violence problems. Instead, schools should consider tightening up their mental health infrastructure, making sure students with suspicious behavior are disciplined accordingly, and school districts should take the initiative of having private security installed at sites. Policy-wise, it would also help if schools were no longer gun-free zones.
Altogether, the solutions will likely have to come from the bottom-up. The tired impulse of turning to coercion from the top will do us no good in matters of social dysfunction. We will need to think outside of the box to find ways to improve school safety.