ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Across the Tampa Bay Area, flags fly at half staff as communities mourn lives lost in mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, as some elected officials speak out and call for action.
The local community will hold a Tampa Bay Against Gun Violence candlelight vigil Monday night from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tampa mayor Jane Castor, St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman and Rep. Charlie Krist are among those scheduled to speak.
“They all need to step up and do the right thing, put some common sense gun restrictions in place,” Kriseman said. “Yes, the second amendment says what it says and I don’t think, certainly I’m not one of those who says we ought to be taking everybody’s handguns away from them, but there’s just no justification for assault weapons and high capacity magazines that I can think of there’s none."
Kriseman also called out Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody in wake of the shootings on social media.
“By standing and trying to get in the way of the voters in this state, having a say whether or this is something they feel passionate about since the legislature won’t do it’s job, and protect us I think is unconscionable,” Kriseman said.
“There can’t be anyone in this country that wasn’t horrified and shocked and saddened by the events that took place this weekend,” Moody said at an unrelated press conference Monday morning. “I agree that we must get better at identifying and working together as law enforcement to protect Floridians against those that are mentally deranged that would seek to do us harm.”
Last week, Moody recommended that the Florida Supreme Court disqualify a ballot measure to ban assault weapons, Monday calling the language misleading.
“While the proposed language would include the types of guns that were used in this weekend the way that they have phrased this language, it would ban virtually every firearm including those that in no shape of the imagination would one think would be described as an assault weapon,” she said.
Meanwhile, other Republicans said gun control is not a solution.
“We have to go to the root of the problem and the root of the problem is not the gun. The root of the problem is the individual and why are people thinking like this more and more,” said Hillsborough County Republican Party Chairman and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Jim Waurishuk.
The state legislature resumes committee meetings in a month.
“With committee meetings resuming just one month from now, our focus should be on steps the Senate can take to review and better understand the various factors involved in mass shootings, in addition to, and also including, school shootings,” Florida Senate President Bill Galvano stated. “This includes white nationalism, which appears to be a factor not only with regard to these recent mass shootings, but also with other acts of violence we have seen across the country in recent years.”
Galvano said he plans to ask the chair of the Committee on Infrastructure and Safety to lead the effort.
Following the shootings, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott also brought up white nationalism.
He tweeted, “What we’ve seen in the last 24 hours in El Paso and Dayton is devastating. Hate and intolerance are corrupting too many of our young people. White nationalism is a cancer on our country. We all stand united against this evil.”
Last month, the governor’s office said a two-day meeting brought law enforcement personal, threat assessment experts and other stake holders to provide information about best practices, model policies and procedures in threat identification and assessment.
“FDLE has formed a Law Enforcement Steering Group, consisting of sheriffs and police chiefs, to advance development of Florida’s threat assessment strategy. This is about law enforcement working together with government to protect Floridians from senseless acts of targeted mass violence. The goal is to have recommendations for Florida strategy ready by the end of the year. Florida is the first state in the country to pursue such a comprehensive threat assessment strategy,” stated Helen Aguirre Ferre the governor’s Director of Communications.
Other lawmakers also weight in.
“It's hard to find the right words to adequately convey how deeply saddened I am by the tragic events that took place in Dayton and El Paso. These acts of hatred and violence were beyond senseless and wrong. My prayers are with the victims, their families, and the incredible first responders involved in both events. May God bless you all,” U.S. Rep. Ross Spano wrote on social media.
“The tragedies in El Paso and Dayton once again exposed the deadly holes in our background check system and that the proliferation of weapons of war put every American man, woman and child at serious risk,” state U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist. “These were acts of hate, no different than what motivated the suffering and destruction at Parkland High School and Pulse Nightclub. We need to stop with the distractions and excuses and take action before more lives are lost.”