Gun reform fight proves difficult as death toll keeps rising | #schoolshooting

ORLANDO, Fla. — While the “City Beautiful” can sprout memories of one’s best days, there is a contrast for families like Fred and Maria Wright.

“It’s a beautiful city,” Maria Wright said

“It is difficult to come to Orlando,” Maria’s husband Fred added. “It’s been opening wounds again, and it hurts, it hurts a lot.”

What You Need To Know

  • Jerry Wright died at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016
  • Since then, his parents have pushed state and federal lawmakers to tighten gun laws 
  • Five years after Pulse, with more mass shootings, only minor changes made
  • Since and including Pulse, nation has had 83 mass shootings — 10 in Florida

Their lives forever changed June 12, 2016 when their son Jerry died.

He was out celebrating a job promotion, hanging with friends at Pulse nightclub, when a gunman forever changed the lives of countless people and shattered the sense of security many once held.

“People tell me he was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Fred Wright said. “No, no no. He was in the right place. It was just the wrong moment because somebody that hated, hated people went in there and started shooting.”

The Wrights never ask “why.”

“I don’t ask it because there were 48 other people there. Why them?” Maria Wright said. “Why 100 Americans a day? Gun violence in this country is taking people all the time.”

It is a question they set out to answer.

One month after their son’s murder, the Wrights were marching in Washington, D.C., taking to the Capitol in Tallahassee, and begging any politician or advocate who would listen.

“We felt in our hearts we needed to make a change,” Fred Wright said.

Change, they would find, is difficult.

Little was done after Pulse in the Florida Legislature. Little was done D.C.

Time passed, but it was not long before 17 teachers and students were gunned down in February 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

In response, in 2018, then-Gov. Rick Scott signed Florida’s Red Flag law into effect.

That law gives judges the authority to revoke firearms from those deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

As a U.S. senator, Scott in 2019 filed federal legislation in response to Parkland, requiring the FBI share data with state law enforcement about any tips it receives about threats and what action it took.

“This is about getting information on threats into the hands of the right people who can prevent violence and protect our families,” Senator Rick Scott said on October 17, 2019.

It’s progress, but still not what’s needed, the Wrights say.

“Simple things like background checks for all gun sales, c’mon. Ninety percent of Americans agree we need to go through background check before you’re given a gun,” Fred Wright said.

The shooters at Pulse and Parkland bought their guns legally.

Since and including Pulse, the United States has had, by FBI standards, more than 83 mass shootings.

More than 485 people have been killed in those attacks — and nearly 1,000 others were injured.

More than 10 of the mass shootings happened in Florida.

“It’s time to stop hiding behind excuses and Senate procedures as a way to getting done what constituents sent you to Washington D.C., to do,” Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf told Spectrum News on April 8, 2021.

Wolf’s reaction came hours visiting the White House this spring when President Joe Biden announced a series of executive orders to combat gun violence.

Those orders target crackdowns on homemade firearms and tighten regulations on firearm accessories, but they stopped short on some fronts.

“The idea we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation,” Biden said on April 8, 2021.

“I think we all want to solve the problem, right? We have real disagreements how to get there,” U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Florida’s 6th Congressional District) said. “I believe we have a true mental-health crisis in this country. I’m more focused on why someone wants to walk into their workplace and start shooting people regardless of the firearm.”

Florida’s Red Flag Law is a good step forward, Waltz said, and advocates indicated law has helped save an unknown number of lives.

That law allows law enforcement and concerned family members to petition a court to remove firearms from the possession of those believed to be a threat to themselves or others.

According to data provided by the Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers, judges have approved a growing number of temporary petitions for risk protection.

Year 2018 (March – December)

  • Temporary petitions for risk protection granted by judges: 1,055
  • Final petitions granted by judges: 1,031

Year 2019 (January – December)

  • Temporary petitions for risk protection granted by judges: 1,936
  • Final petitions granted by judges: 2,023

Year 2020 (January – December)

  • Temporary petitions for risk protection granted by judges: 2,355
  • Final petitions granted by judges: 2,141

Year 2021 (January – February)

  • Temporary petitions for risk protection granted by judges: 364
  • Final petitions granted by judges: 331

“The Legislature put in Red Flag laws with due process, and that’s a critical, critical process,” Waltz said.

In a nation with 328 million people, it is estimated Americans own 393 million firearms. This includes 2.3 million concealed firearm license holders in Florida.

In the last year alone, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services processed 265,000 new applications for firearm licenses, denying 3,500 requests for licenses.

Advocates say going after guns is not the solution.

Dillon Huckabey of Shoot Straight Apopka spoke with Spectrum News’ Jeff Allen in April 2021.

“It’s really more bureaucracy than it is stopping criminals in our perspective, but at the same time, I think everybody is on board with keeping guns out of criminal hands,” Huckabey said.

“The bullet doesn’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat,” Maria Wright said. “The bullet doesn’t care if you’re a man or woman or Black or white or gay or straight. People from every walk of life are getting killed so it’s, do you love the people in your life? If you do, then we need to do something about the violence.”

So much is at stake and so many lives.

“This is the thing to me, you asked if I asked why and I asked ‘What’,” Maria Wright said. “My child was taken in an evil, dark tragic act. My goal, if I can save one life, I bring some light to this. My son was a person who was kind, gentle, and full of light, full of joy, so for me it’s so important to bring some light, some goodness from all of this and that’s what I keep speaking for. If I can save one life and I may never know about it, but jerry will know. To me that’s what.”

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