Pulse, Parkland victims plead for latest gun bill support
Manuel Oliver in screen shot from Zoom conference.

Manuel Oliver
It's not about taking away guns, it's about limiting weapons that can kill en masse.

Less than a week short of three years since the Parkland massacre, nearly five years since the Pulse massacre, survivors and victims’ families joined Monday in renewed pleas for the Florida Legislature to ban the kinds of military-style assault weapons involved.

“I lost my son and my best friend,” said Manuel Oliver, father of  Joaquin Oliver, the 17-year-old Marjory Stoneman Douglas student murdered along with 16 other people in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.

“It has almost been five years and all I can think about is their bodies riddled with bullets, and all I can ask myself is, when? When is enough enough?” said Brandon Wolf, the Pulse survivor and Equality Florida activist whose best friends Christopher “Drew” Leinonen and Juan Guerrero were among the 49 people murdered at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016.

“We didn’t do it after Pulse, after the Pulse nightclub shooting when 49 of our fellow Floridians were slaughtered. We didn’t do it after Parkland, when our kids and our educators, 17 were slaughtered. But we must do it now,” said Gail Schwartz, the Ban Assault Weapons NOW chair whose 14 year old nephew Alex Schachter was one of the Stoneman Douglas murder victims.

“We are ready to come back here year after year,” said 15 year old Zoe Weissman who was a 12-year-old Westglades Middle School student hiding for her life next door to Stoneman Douglas High School as hundreds of gunshots rang out, and who now is deputy policy director and Parkland lead for March For Our Lives in Florida.

They are coming back, year after year, to push for legislation to ban high-powered, semi-automatic guns and high-capacity magazines, bills that consistently show majority public support in some polls, but which have annually died quickly in the Florida Legislature.

This year they gathered on a Zoom press call Monday to support Sen. Gary Farmer‘s Senate Bill 370 and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith‘s House Bill 653.

They were joined by others from Ban Assault Weapons NOW, the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, and the League of Women Voters of Florida, along with Farmer, the Fort Lauderdale Democrat, and Smith, the Orlando Democrat, for the now annual plea to limit or eliminate weapons they contend are meant for military purposes and greatly increase the body counts when in the hands madmen civilians.

It’s a plea that annually runs into arguments from the Republican leadership that the guns and high-capacity magazines themselves are not the problem, that any restrictions on their availability are infringements on Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights.

On Monday advocates for SB 370 and HB 653 argued they are not talking about banning ordinary guns, just those that make it way too easy for madmen to commit mass shootings.

“In the first one minute and 44 seconds, the killer was able to shoot 24 people on the first and second floor of the high school. And then he went up to the third floor and in one minute and five seconds he was able to shoot ten more people,” Schwartz said. “And this is all while our kids are running for their lives.”

“Juan suffered 10 gunshot wounds that night. Two in the torso, two in the arm, six in the leg. He was rescued from the club, carried out on a stretcher, rushed to a hospital, but died in surgery,” Wolfe said. “Drew took nine more bullets. The list of his perforated organs was almost too long to recount. He never made it off the dance floor. My best friends were not just shot and killed. They were brutalized.”

“We are trying to convince people that fewer victims… not that not anyone will die. Our argument is if you don’t have that weapon, but another one, you will find fewer victims.” Oliver said. “It’s bizarre. We are trying to save a few lives.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


3 comments

  • MattC

    February 10, 2021 at 4:17 pm

    Gun laws remove the ability to protect oneself. Murder is already illegal. Criminals don’t abide by the laws. I had 5 Criminals in my driveway, 2 with guns, one shot at me. That’s why you need high capacity magazines

  • Eric Nix

    February 10, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    Only an idiot thinks gun control is the answer.

  • David Luchin

    February 14, 2021 at 12:43 am

    “Gun Control Advocates” (GCA) are extremely devious. GCA KNOW that most “mass killings” are committed with HANDGUNS equipped with magazines holding 10-or-less rounds. GCA deviously target “military-style” rifles and 30-round magazines because they perceive a ban on such weapons is easier to achieve than going after handguns and smaller magazines. HOWEVER, after GCA achieve a ban on ANYTHING, it is easier to EXPAND an existing ban than to enact new bans each year in pursuit of their REAL GOAL of an absolute ban on firearms. The estimated number of SELF-DEFENSE uses of guns runs between 200,000 and 2.5 MILLION, which is FAR MORE LIVES SAVED BY CIVILIAN GUNS than are extinguished by criminals. The MSD Commission recommended ARMING SCHOOL STAFF, and the Florida Legislature codified it – leaving the last vote in the hands of the local school boards. The Broward County school board is 100% anti-gun-rights and voted AGAINST the Legislature and the MSD Commission recommendation of ARMING SCHOOL STAFF.

Comments are closed.


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