Joe Henderson: Some ideas for Senate to consider in mass killing review

AR-15 rifles line a shelf in the gun library at the ATF National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia
Tom Lee says he has no preconceived notions in seeking solutions against gun violence

Progress on curbing gun violence in our state and nation moves at an agonizingly slow pace. It seems like it takes a mass killing as we saw twice over the weekend for politicians to get serious about the problem.

But I’ll give Florida Senate President Bill Galvano credit for being willing to seek the right answers to questions that torment us all. He assigned fellow Senator Tom Lee to lead an effort to “review and better understand the various factors involved in mass shootings, in addition to, and also including, school shootings.”

We should note, though, the study is about mass killings, not just shooting. Let’s not confuse the two.

The bipartisan hearings should begin in September.

Lee received an A-plus rating in 2018 from the National Rifle Association. But he also has been known to wander off the Republican reservation and seek common ground when he feels compelled. Hopefully, this will be one of those times.

“The longer I’ve been at this, the more important I believe it is to approach these things with data,” Lee said. “But the hardest part of these things is that there isn’t much wiggle room between the parties on what they will or won’t do. That’s the challenge. I also feel like if you take decisions off the table before you start, you’re making decisions for the body politick.”

Well, let’s go ahead and put a few things on the table. Some of them might head off the next mass killing.

Magazine capacity restrictions: The murderer in the Dayton, Ohio massacre equipped a legally purchased AR-15 style pistol with a 100-round drum magazine. He fired 41 rounds in 30 seconds before police shot and killed him.

Large-capacity magazines are a staple of other mass killings, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Nine states and the District of Columbia outlaw them, but there is no such restriction in Florida.

It’s moving in the right direction, though. Florida banned bump stocks last year after the Parkland massacre. Take it to the next level. Ban magazine drums. Make their possession a felony with serious prison time. That should be low-hanging fruit.

Guns on college campuses: This is something the NRA has wanted for a while and hasn’t gotten. The state still prohibits guns on college campuses. Lawmakers keep trying to over-ride that though, and they will again.

Universities throughout the state overwhelmingly oppose this idea. Florida State University President John Thrasher is particularly outspoken on this issue.

Listen to him. There might be another attempt next year to eliminate the so-called gun-free zones. After all, this is Florida. But Lee could issue a preemptive statement why that would be a horrible idea. It’s called leadership.

White nationalism: Do we really have to say it’s bad? I didn’t think so. But turn up the heat to broiling on organizations or individuals who advocate racist garbage.

School security: This is a tougher issue. Much raw emotion remains from the aftermath of Parkland. The state is more serious than ever about requiring stronger security at its public schools. Now, keep looking for soft spots.

Large schools like Stoneman Douglas have far different issues and challenges than smaller elementary or middle schools. Each student deserves to feel safe, no matter where they attend school. But working at a large public high school can be like drinking from a fire hose.

It can overwhelm a staff trying to teach, or answer phones that never stop ringing. They deal with cranky parents and student discipline issues. That’s just the normal stuff. Spend a couple of days in the front office of a busy high school as a fly on the wall.

Observe and learn what really goes on.

Lee said he understands what’s riding on this.

“Our office has been flooded with calls on this from people on both sides,” he said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t have a lot of answers, and people are worried.

“But (Galvano) asked me to do this, and I’m happy to step up. It’s like the sports analogy. If you don’t want the ball in the fourth quarter, you don’t belong. And I got into this to be an honest broker and to make a difference.”

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Ian

    August 7, 2019 at 10:19 pm

    From the article:
    “Large-capacity magazines are a staple of other mass killings, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Nine states and the District of Columbia outlaw them, but there is no such restriction in Florida.”

    In 2007, a crazed college student killed 32 people and wounded 17 others at Virginia Tech University. He didn’t have an “assault rifle” with a drum or a large-capacity magazine, so that was not a staple of the VA Tech mass killing. He used two handguns, and he killed 32 people. Most mass shootings are carried out with handguns. “Assault rifles” with your so-called staple are usually absent.

    From the article:
    “Guns on college campuses: This is something the NRA has wanted for a while and hasn’t gotten. The state still prohibits guns on college campuses.”

    It’s a good thing VA Tech and Florida State banned guns on campus, eh?

    From the article:
    “White nationalism: Do we really have to say it’s bad?”

    OK, so “white nationalism” is bad. What about black nationalism? Is yellow nationalism bad? Red nationalism? Brown nationalism? Btw, how many mass shootings have anything to do with white nationalism? Do tell. After you come up with a number, perhaps you’ll realize the big majority of mass shootings have nothing to do with white nationalism or any other type of nationalism.

    Please consider this constructive criticism.

  • Billy

    August 7, 2019 at 10:52 pm

    Let’s confuse nationalism with supremacy.
    Any if they love and support our country can call themselves nationalist but supremacists are people like the Nazis the only reason the media and others are using nationalist is the president called himself a nationalist and as we know there are elements in this country that hate him and everything he stands for and does.
    But let’s not confuse the two there is a big difference……

    • Glenn King

      August 8, 2019 at 5:58 am

      No, don’t ban anything. The bump stock ban is unconstitutional and will loose in the SCOTUS. The government has no legal Constitutional authority to ban any type of “arms”. The 2A specifically states “shall not be infringed”. Florida needs to remain RED and not fall for any of this anti-gun idiocy that will do nothing to make anyone safer.

  • Tom

    August 7, 2019 at 11:27 pm


    How about you stick with writing garbage and keep your nose out of things you know nothing about. How about a tact that nobody has suggested: Allow people the ability to lawfully exercise their GOD given right to defend themselves through the 2nd amendment? You know, that little thing that was endowed upon us NOT by the government but by our creator?

    You see those nut jobs LOVE gun free zones, in fact so much so that those “mass killings” shootings WHATEVER you want to call them happen in gun free zones 97% of the time.. The nut jobs are crazy, not stupid; they want easy targets.. UNARMED targets and that is where you will find law abiding citizens OBEYING the law and not carrying.

    This is just one tiny facet that you and other anti-Americans do not want to address because YOU SIMPLY DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT! You simply demand that SOMEONE do something, when you do liberty dies a little more.

    Anytime you wish to discuss actual facts and real ways to curb firearm deaths WITHOUT buring the United States Constitution to the ground get in touch, I am a certified firearms instructor and will be glad to educate you so perhaps next time you won’t sound like such a communist and gun grabber.

    Take care and God bless!


  • Brad

    August 8, 2019 at 7:17 am

    The Parkland shooter did NOT use “high capacity” magazines, he used 10 Rd magazines. Remember Columbine? Harris and Klebold used 10 Rd magazines, and firearms that conformed under the Assault Weapons Ban. The capacity of the magazine doesn’t affect matters much. So, for those who think limiting magazine capacity, please enlighten us on how this will stop anyone.

  • Ron Ogden

    August 8, 2019 at 8:00 am

    Joe, you are white. Does that make you evil? When you employ a term that has a strong “color” component, you are addressing an issue based upon the supposed “color of your skin.” This is wrong, and bigoted. Joe, do you not understand that the very fact that you are able to write like you do is because of the nature of the American nation? America was founded by people who believed in freedom of thought, worship and expression, and the nearly all of those people were white males. You want freedom to pursue your literary goals in this column. You not only should support the American ideal of nationhood as given by our white male founders, you should demand it because it is the real, practical, day-to-day embodiment of those freedoms.

  • David W

    August 8, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    “Lets take it to the next level. Ban magazine drums. Make their possession a felony with serious prison time. That should be low hanging fruit.”

    In other words, let’s turn law abiding citizens who own them into felons and throw them in prison. I don’t own a drum magazine and have never had the desire to do so. Until now. Would you be the one to come take it from me? I didn’t think so. But I’ll be sure to enjoy my new totally ridiculous toy.

Comments are closed.


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