Florida Gubernatorial Candidates Trade Barbs Over Parkland Failures

Republican Florida governor candidate Ron DeSantis (left), and Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum. (Carlos Barria/Joe Skipper/Reuters)

Republican congressman Ron DeSantis and Democratic mayor of Tallahassee Andrew Gillum clashed during the Sunday night gubernatorial debate over what led to the deadly school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida.

On Valentine’s Day, a former student opened fire inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 students, teachers, and staff and injuring 17 others.

In the aftermath, Florida governor Rick Scott signed legislation that raised the minimum age to purchase rifles to 21, banned bump stocks, and provided funding for mental-health assistance, as well as arming teachers and some staff.

CNN moderator Jake Tapper asked Republican candidate DeSantis why he said he would not have signed the bill. DeSantis said he is more focused on school security and on “identifying those people who should not have access to weapons.”

“We are going to fix it in terms of school security,” the Florida congressman said. “I think the blanket restriction on age is going to get struck down by the courts.”

“I think we have to take some of these people who are causing problems like this killer — he should have been convicted of crimes. He should have been Baker-Acted. He should not have been on the streets.”

The Baker Act is a Florida law that allows families of those close to someone with mental-health issues to impose temporary detention for people who may be a danger to themselves or others.

DeSantis slammed the administrative failures of Broward County, saying they catalyzed last semester’s tragedy. He is working with Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter Meadow in the shooting, to reform the county.

Three Broward County sheriff’s deputies remained outside the school as the shooter gunned people down inside with his AR-15. The county has also been criticized for ignoring red flags about the shooter, who had documented developmental problems and mental-health issues and was reported to authorities multiple times, including by callers who were worried that he could turn into a school shooter specifically.

Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum accused his opponent of being “wholly owned by the NRA.”

“He’s not going to stand up to the National Rifle Association,” the Democrat said. “That’s why they’re running all these ads against me, because they want the man that they bought.”

Tallahassee is “out of control in terms of crime” under Gillum’s direction, DeSantis fired back.

“Ron is being Don, and that’s Donald Trump, neglecting all sense of reason and facts,” Gillum said, citing Tallahassee’s drop in crime last year.

Tallahassee’s crime rate went down in 2017, but the city still ranks first in the state and third in murder rate.

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