After spate of Miami school shooting threats, gun safety group Giffords PAC to endorse Val Demings

Val Demings
Miami-Dade County police have investigated at least 12 gun-related school threats in the last week.

Gun safety group Giffords PAC plans to endorse Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings‘ 2022 campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio during the unveiling of a gun violence memorial at Bayfront Park in Miami next week.

The group’s namesake, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, will join Demings, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Giffords PAC Executive Director Peter Ambler in speaking at the Dec. 13 event, which will take place about a week after a spate of local school shooting threats took place across Miami-Dade County.

The memorial is part of Giffords PAC’s nationwide effort to spread awareness about gun violence and will feature 3,000 vases representing each Floridian who died in a shooting last year, a press note from the group said.

Alongside FBI personnel, Miami-Dade law enforcement and school district officials have investigated at least 12 gun-related school threats over the past week.

On Monday, police arrested a 15-year-old student on felony charges of making a threat on social media against Miami Senior High that others then changed to impact other local schools, the Miami Herald reported.

Another student, a 16-year-old girl, was also taken into custody for making threats.

Fortunately, none of the threats appeared to be credible, said Miami-Dade Public Schools Chief Communications and Community Engagement Officer Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, whose office confirmed at least one school, G. Holmes Braddock Senior High, had to be placed on lockdown.

On Thursday, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 17-year-old student accused of making threats on social media against Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High became the site of the deadliest shooting at a high school in U.S. history on Feb. 14, 2018, when former student Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and wounded 17 others.

Just over a week after the shooting, Rubio joined survivors of the shooting and parents in a CNN town hall, where he said he supported raising the age to buy rifles, was open to reconsidering the size of gun magazines and disagreed with former President Donald Trump‘s proposal to arm teachers.

Cruz pleaded guilty in court to all counts Oct. 20, 2021. On Tuesday, Judge Elizabeth Scherer denied a motion by Cruz’s defense to block the death penalty.

Giffords PAC in April unveiled a much larger memorial on the National Mall in Washington, where 40,000 vases with white, silk flowers represented the number of Americans who die annually from gun violence.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of both congressional chambers attended the event at which Giffords called for federal action to curb gun violence. In 2011, she survived being shot in the head during a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six and wounded 12.

Giffords has since taken the memorial — designed by democratic advance man Doug Landry, who also created the COVID-19 memorial displayed during President Joe Biden’s inauguration — on the road.

In August, the group brought the memorial to Philadelphia. It then traveled to New York City and Los Angeles in October.

Demings was a vice-chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. In May, she co-introduced the Protecting Our Communities Act, which among other things would address so-called 3D-printed “ghost guns” and bump stocks capable of turning semiautomatic weapons into automatic ones.

Her office described the bill as “a grouping of several high-profile gun safety bills” and “an ambitious effort to push Congress to take action to prevent gun violence.”

Gun violence disproportionately affects communities of color in Florida, according to the nonprofit Education Fund to Stop Gun Violence, which found the homicide rate among Black males 15 to 34 was elevenfold what it was for white males of the same age group between 2015 and 2019.

Florida ranked 25th in gun deaths among all U.S. states in 2019. Homicides accounted for 35% of gun deaths. Suicides, for which white men 75 and older are at high risk, accounted for most of the remainder.

Polling Giffords PAC released in May by left-leaning public affairs and research firm Global Strategy Group found 86% of Floridians support the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021. That includes 97% of Democrats, 82% of Republicans and 82% of gun owners.

The bill, which Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson of California filed in March, swiftly passed through the House on a 227-203 vote, with eight Republicans breaking ranks to support the legislation.

It has yet to advance in the Senate. Last week, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois joined fellow Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut in requesting unanimous consent for the bill, which would require FBI background checks for nearly all gun sales, among other measures.

“What will it take?” Durbin said Dec. 2, two days after a mass shooting at an Oxford, Michigan, school that killed four students and wounded seven people. “Is there a crime involving guns in America so horrific that finally we say enough?”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, blocked the request, calling it “hostile towards lawful gun owners and lawful firearm transactions.”

Grassley instead pushed a bill he co-sponsored in May with Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, which is a repeat of legislation he and Cruz have backed since 2013 that would add requirements for government agencies to accurately submit records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Last year, more than 120 people died from gunshot wounds daily — a 15% uptick from 2019, according to new provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Evan

    December 8, 2021 at 9:50 am

    Val Demmings needs to find her service weapon that was stolen from her unlocked city vehicle.

  • Bruce

    December 8, 2021 at 11:10 pm

    Shouldn’t we remember how Rubio used his Republican Party American Express credit card to make upgrade to his home. These were personal expenses not to be charged to his party card.
    Then there was Rubio’s attempt to become the Republican Party presidential nominee in 2020. He was completely shut down by many of the other 17 Republican Party nominees.
    How about his excessive salary as an adjunct professor at FIU.

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