It has been only two short weeks since the horrific murders of 17 students, faculty, and staff and the wounding of scores more at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
In that short time, Parkland has changed the dynamics and has become a national model on proactivity to revise gun laws and enhance school safety.
Because of a dedicated effort by a committed group of surviving students, teachers, friends, the families, of many of those slain, and a few local leaders, things have begun to change. And that change is occurring from the White House and Congress in Washington, D.C., all the way to the State House in Tallahassee, Florida.
On the national level, Donald Trump became the first president to convene a White House "listening session" with families of victims of the Parkland and other school shootings.
That was followed by a meeting with Governors on school safety and gun reform. Another meeting was held with a bipartisan group of members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
These were unprecedented actions of presidential leadership barely receiving any praise from the mainstream media!
In Florida, the Parkland tragedy could have an impact of the upcoming U.S. Senate and governor’s races.
Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, an unannounced candidate to run for the U.S. Senate against Bill Nelson, D-Fla., moved quickly to order the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to investigate the Parkland tragedy.
He also proposed a $500 million school safety, mental health, and gun law package which would bar anyone under the age of 21 from being able to purchase a firearm.
Whether he will get the Republican legislature to implement such a program, or even one of its own, in the next two weeks before the end of the legislative session, is anyone’s guess.
As to the Governor’s race, Florida House Speaker Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, is an unannounced candidate for governor. Until Parkland, he was relatively unknown statewide.
Since his call for the governor to suspend Democratic Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, at his urging, the Florida House issued, and he signed, subpoenas seeking extensive records from the Broward Sheriff's Office, County School Board, County government, Palm Beach Sheriff's Office — and city of Coral Springs, on how they each handled the Parkland shooting.
With these actions, and his opposition to sanctuary cities, expect Corcoran to be even more visible and share some of the media spotlight in Florida with Trump endorsed candidate Congressman Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.
As noted above, much of the above accomplishments are due to the outstanding efforts of a few local elected officials who worked closely with students and parents and stayed clear of partisan grandstanding and demonizing the NRA as well as gunowners.
Many were involved, but four merit attention and serve as examples to other communities around the nation that may have to face similar tragedies:
- Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky. A self-described "stay at home mom," she attended the White House meeting to discuss responses to the school shooting; met with state legislators to deliver messages of parents of children killed in the massacre; and, lobbied lawmakers for reform.
- Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine. He represents Parkland on the commission and is a former commissioner and 10-year Mayor of the city. He worked behind the scenes to show support for the families and students of the school which his daughter attends; joined with students to seek funds from GOP legislative leaders to tear down the building where the massacre occurred; and, provide a memorial on the site.
- Broward County Commissioner Chip La Marca. The lone Republican on the nine-member Commission, he was among the first local politiciansto offer proposals and solutions including: barring anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing a firearm with the exception of persons in the military or law enforcement.
- Child advocate and Florida State Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, who financed bus transportation for students to go to Tallahassee, coordinated food and lodging and organized meetings with legislative leaders.
While many such as those mentioned have been getting plaudits for their actions, criticism in many quarters is being heaped upon the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO) and its leader, Scott Israel.
He has been under much attack — especially from state and national critics — for many reasons including: why a school resource deputy did not go into the school while shots were being fired and why no action was taken after dozens of visits by deputies to the killer’s home.
Notwithstanding near national condemnation, Israel has nothing to fear.
He is the most powerful elected Democrat in solidly Democratic Broward County. Few if any Democratic officials would venture to criticize him.
Already, a group of 10 of the 17 Broward state legislators have come to his defense blaming Republicans in Tallahassee for a "rush to judgement."
He also has the editorial support of the local Broward edition of the Sun Sentinel newspaper which said, "Answers are needed before jumping the gun on Israel."
If that were not enough of a shield, he has developed a strong and loyal constituency in the county’s black community and also among its clergy, some of whom held a prayer meeting supporting him this week.
Short of the unlikely event that the governor will suspend him, he has nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, the real victims in this possible scandal are the vast majority of great BSO deputies who have been unfairly tainted by the apparent mistakes of a very few
Clarence V. McKee is president of McKee Communications, Inc., a government, political, and media relations consulting firm in Florida. He held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as in the Reagan presidential campaigns. He is a former co-owner of WTVT-TV in Tampa and former president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters. Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.
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