Matt Caldwell: Gun-free zones led to Parkland shooting

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Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Matt Caldwell on Wednesday said he believes making schools gun-free zones is the main reason on why tragedies like last week’s mass shooting at a Broward County high school happen.

“I believe that these … shootings happen because (schools) are soft targets—they happen because we designate them gun-free zones,” said Caldwell, a Republican House member from North Fort Myers, on CNN Wednesday morning.

CNN anchor John Berman immediately pushed back on the Florida lawmaker, saying it’s not known whether the shooter picked his target because he knew no one on campus would be armed.

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is being held on premeditated murder charges.

“It appears that it was targeted because” Cruz had attended the high school, Berman told Caldwell.

Caldwell’s sentiment that gun-free zones are the main reason for such mass shootings is shared by other Florida Senate Republicans, including Sarasota’s Greg Steube and Ocala’s Dennis Baxley.

The two legislators proposed a bill (SB 1236) that would allow school principals or superintendents to designate individuals who could carry guns during school hours. Those receiving the designation would have to meet training and background requirements.

The bill had been scheduled to be debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, but was withdrawn over the weekend.

Caldwell’s six-and-half-minute interview began with Berman challenging him over House Republicans’ rejection of a bill (HB 219) which would criminalize the sale and possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, mentioning the AR-15 model reportedly used by Cruz.

The bill has been stuck in a House subcommittee for months and has not been heard.

Like other House Republicans who opposed the bill, Caldwell explained to Berman that the push to bring the bill up for a vote was highly unusual, saying “we don’t pull bills out of committee.”

Caldwell, first elected to the House in 2010, also claimed that the bill went beyond banning semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, saying, “that wasn’t just a ban on high capacity magazines, that was a ban on all guns.”

The bill, however, refers to “any assault weapon or large-capacity ammunition magazine.”

Alluding to the fact that the FBI and Department of Children and Families were aware of Cruz’s troubled history leading up to last week’s shooting, Caldwell said that is something that legislators need to focus on, and not gun-control measures.

“Taking away people’s Second Amendment rights (isn’t) going to do that,” he said.

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, is expected to introduce a legislative package Thursday to include new age restrictions for gun purchases, a ban on bump stocks and gun-violence restraining orders.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected]


  • Keith Vanderkley

    February 21, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    I can’t believe that Matt Caldwell represents the view of most Americans. Seems to me Mr Caldwell is short-sighted or just plain dumb. Guns DO kill people. Especially automatic, large magazine weapons and high-powered automatic rifles. They provide a quick, easy and very effective means to those that are deranged and wish to kill, maim, and create carnage. That’s what those guns are designed for; Carnage, destruction and as much collateral damage possible to stop one from getting up.

    It’s because of those that continue perpetuate, without change, an amendment that was created over 200 years ago, that our kids, corralled in schools, a crowd at a concert, people in restaurants, airports, or a lone person walking their dog will always remain easy targets for sick minds. Restricting guns will not eradicate the ability for those people that wish to create carnage to do so, but at least make it a lot harder to achieve their objectives, or make it that someone becomes more aware that they are seeking such means to do their evil deeds.

    I live in a country, Canada, where gun ownership is restricted , we have no RIGHT to carry arms, but some are privileged to carry registered guns for hunting purposes or protection, only after being vetted and judged mentally fit to carry a gun. It’s a PRIVILEGE, like driving a car, piloting a plane, or a boat, or practice certain professions. You need to be licensed and registered. If you do not pass the test, there is no “Right” to practice or handle any of these devices. It again does not preclude, but reduces all instances of violence, and those that feel a need to protect themselves can do so if they can prove their ability to choose between wrong and right, are mentally fit, are law abiding and responsible in handling their weapons.

    The second amendment was written how long ago? Are we living under the same circumstances now? Law then was upheld by local sheriffs, trying to keep the peace and bring order to a society in both Canada and the USA. As our country grew, so did our laws, recognizing the need to regulate, to restrict, to curb the ability of those that wish to do wrong, and strengthening the ability to live in a safe environment for us and our children.

    Those that want to hunt, or shoot targets, still can, as long as they are registered and licensed to handle such a dangerous weapon. So their ability to do so has not been taken away. However, those that wish to do wrong with weapons have to work a lot harder to get access to them. So …what is wrong with that? We don’t have mass shootings here, not even close to the same murder rate per-capita, crime with guns is rare…..and our kids don’t have to go through “shooter training”!! They can learn and play in a safe environment. Is that not what we all want for our kids?

    • Ellen Goldsmith

      February 21, 2018 at 8:56 pm

      Yes he is just plain dumb!

    • Fed Up

      February 22, 2018 at 5:44 am


    • Veiled Heat

      February 27, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Right, my guns got up and started killing people just the other day. I had them locked up in the safe. They somehow picked the lock got out and they all went on a rampage. Those crazy guns to kill people. I have to really watch them, they are just crazy.

      If guns kill people then pencils make spelling errors.

  • bfoustark

    February 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    Mateen knew Pulse had armed security. Paddock knew Vegas venue had armed security. Gun laws are limited in stopping violence but that does not mean efforts should be ignored.

    • Fed Up

      February 22, 2018 at 5:50 am

      Indeed! Seems to me that killers kill in surroundings they are familiar with or have some connection to. Most school shootings are perpetrated by students. Will Caldwell call for an armed presence in every public venue next?

  • Tom Palmer

    February 21, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    That goober won’t get my vote.

Comments are closed.


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