David Jolly says he’s not sure that a ban on assault weapons is possible in Washington, but believes a solution that could happen immediately is to make them “functionally obsolete” for the average citizen.
“Make the requirements to get an assault weapon as hard as it is to get a security clearance in this White House,” the former Republican congressman quipped to laughs while addressing the Cafe Con Tampa crowd at the Oxford Exchange Friday morning.
“That would be a yearlong process,” he said, turning serious to say that it would allow authorities to get as much information about a person’s background as possible, including serious training and storage requirements that he thinks would only allow the most trained sportsman or woman to handle.
Like many Republicans, he also says that enforcing current laws on the books to a greater extent would also work, or as he says, “Enforce the gun laws as strictly as Donald Trump wants to enforce the immigration laws.”
Though not a card-carrying NRA member, Jolly did receive $9,600 in contributions from the gun rights organization in his special election against Democrat Alex Sink in 2014 and was the beneficiary of the group spending more than $100,000 against Sink in that same campaign.
He said the current background check process is relatively toothless, consisting of a criminal conviction check and little else. People’s mental health history, including counseling, is currently not part of such a check.
And with all that has been learned about Parkland confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz, Jolly said it should be.
Universal and comprehensive background checks should include every transaction involved with a gun, Jolly said, so if somebody wants to sell it to a family member, it should be done at the local sheriff’s department.
Jolly said he’s now “evolved” to the point where he believes such medical background history needs to be included in such a background check.
Joining the Indian Shores Republican in the discussion was former Treasure Coast Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy, who called guns like the AR-15 “weapons of war” designed to kill human beings, and said they need to go away.
Cruz used an AR-15 to kill 17 people last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week.
“If you need 50 rounds to kill a deer, you need a new sport. Bottom line,” he said.
Murphy said in the current climate in Washington (controlled by Republicans in both the House and Senate) banning assault weapons isn’t a viable possibility, but says it should be the ultimate goal.
Eliminating bump stocks, addressing mental health and reinforcing school safety are “baby steps” that Murphy believes are possible to achieve now.
A joint appearance by two moderate former members of Congress (who collectively only spent six and a half years in Washington) was part of their traveling road show on ways to get Washington working better, a tour they are holding across the state and other parts of the country since the fall.
To their credit, Jolly and Murphy aren’t preaching to the crowd that they need to be as moderate politically as they are, but that it’s essential to find common ground to fix the problems that our political system is supposed to do but has been breaking down over the past few decades into increased partisan rancor.
Jolly attributes the beginning of the fissure was the mid-1990s when Newt Gingrich led the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives. However, he also insists that Democrats were poised to do the same thing if they were in charge (which they were for decades in the U.S. House before 1994).
“Newt Gingrich realized not only did we take control of the House of Representatives, we’re now going to demand that K Street give us all their money that they’ve been giving to Democrats,” he said, “and then we’re going to go around the country and set up these funds to push lobbyists money into the states, so we can take over our state legislatures, and start to redistrict, start to close primaries, and put a chokehold that ensures that Republicans have a structural advantage for the next couple of decades.”
“And that’s what they did.”
After losing a re-election bid after redistricting in Florida’s 13th Congressional District in 2016 to Charlie Crist, Jolly has become omnipresent on CNN and MSNBC as one of the most outspoken Republican critics to President Trump. Although he’s said as recently as a month ago that he was still considering a run for office in 2018, he all but admitted on Friday that’s increasingly unlikely.
“Not only am I candidate without a party, I’m a candidate without a donor base.”
He did add that he is already involved with efforts to help out a Republican primary presidential challenge to Trump in 2020, having recently met with Republicans in both Iowa and Washington D.C.
Murphy said the teenagers who were directly affected by the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School and have been protesting this week about gun violence give him great hope.
“It’s powerful for our country,” he said.
Murphy concluded: “To get involved, to knock on doors, to get out there to vote, or at least get others to vote. That’s a powerful thing. Politicians, by and large, will care more about that than the money, or anything else, if they see that as a sustaining movement, it can’t be one week, two weeks and done.
“This has to continue for months, and unfortunately probably years to be effective, but with the passion that I see, I am optimistic that this can be a generation that does lead to results.”