Since the evil killing sprees in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, I’ve tried to spend more time listening and thinking than talking. The pontificating and the politicking of elected officials do nothing to help grieving families or reassure Americans who fear that their friends or loved ones could be next.
Sitting with families who have lost a parent, a child, a spouse can have a profound effect on anyone who sees firsthand the devastation of their loss. I know this from personal experience when I was governor of Florida, when the state was scarred by several mass shootings, including one in which 17 people died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year.
Let me be clear: I am a gun owner, a member of the National Rifle Association and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. But the horror of Parkland demanded a swift, practical legislative response to try to prevent future such nightmares.
In Florida, about three weeks after the Parkland shooting — and after the views of experts in mental health, education and law enforcement were taken into account — I signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act into law, surrounded by the families of those who tragically lost their lives.
Now, in the aftermath of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Washington should stop the partisan bickering and get to work on solutions. The steps we took in Florida, in addition to committing $400 million to increasing school safety, included a “red flag” provision. Properly constructed, the extreme risk protection order, as it’s known, is a common-sense public safety measure.
Anyone who has threatened self-harm, has threatened to harm others or is mentally unstable should not have access to a gun. At all. You can call it an infringement on rights if you want. I don’t care. Just get guns away from such people.
The actions of a sick and twisted few cannot be allowed to strip away the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. And let’s be clear: Depriving Americans of their constitutional right to bear arms is the ultimate goal of many on the left who exploit tragedies such as these for political gain. But that doesn’t change the fact that we must not allow people who threaten harm to themselves or others to have guns.
As is the case with most laws, the devil can be in the details. Whenever we allow the government to take this kind of aggressive action, we must also allow for strong due-process protections. Without due process, the entire legal system can turn into mob rule. Due process is a crucial part of U.S. jurisprudence and basic fairness.
That’s why a judge should determine whether a person meets the red-flag threshold for having a weapon. Any such person must be given the opportunity to plead his or her case before a judge in a hearing that occurs in a timely and expedited manner. If an extreme risk protection order is carried out, the state must re-prove its case after a short, reasonable period. The process should include criminal penalties for those who instigate it with false or frivolous charges.
We must face the fact that our culture has produced an underclass of predominantly white young men who place no value on human life, who live purposeless lives of anonymity and digital dependency, and who increasingly act on their most evil desires, sometimes with racial hatred.
Progress can be made in the legislative and judicial arenas, but no amount of new laws can completely stop criminals or cure the root causes of violence. The problems go deeper than guns or any inanimate pieces of hardware.
One thing that does absolutely nothing to help is the almost instantaneous politicking and blame games that follow each new mass shooting.
We can’t bring back the 31 lives lost in the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, or the 17 Parkland victims. But we can commit now to increasing safety measures so that fewer families and fewer communities face these tragedies.
Rick Scott, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Florida.