TAMPA — A bipartisan pair of former congressmen spoke Friday about gun safety measures that are more drastic than those being considered following the Parkland school shootings, and about hopes for a national youth movement comparable to the 1960s and 1970s.
Former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly told a Tampa audience that gun safety measures must go far beyond those being discussed by Republican majorities in Congress and the Florida Legislature to have any impact on mass shootings.
To be effective, he said, measures should include background checks that cover mental health treatment, domestic complaints or arrests even if they don’t lead to criminal charges. And training, use and storage requirements should be so strict they make assault weapons "functionally obsolete for the layperson."
"Enforce the gun laws as strictly as Donald Trump wants to enforce immigration laws," said Jolly, a former House member from St. Petersburg. "Stop raiding houses and throwing people out and start raiding houses and taking people’s guns away because they’re illegal."
Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, meanwhile, said he hopes the activism being shown by high school students turns into a sustained national movement.
"What we’re seeing is a reaction that is powerful for our country," comparable to baby boomers "when they were standing up for what they believed in and fighting government," he said. "I hope it sustains."
But to have an effect, he said, the movement must sustain itself "for months and unfortunately probably for years."
Both said a ban on assault weapons is impossible in the current political climate in Washington.
Murphy described a recent conversation with a GOP congressman he wouldn’t name who told him Congress will make no substantive changes and said, "I don’t plan on voting for anything because of my NRA base. They put out these fliers and tell people who to vote for. If I lose my A-rating I will be primaried and I will lose."
Jolly praised "the few Republicans that are now at least willing to talk about this issue. There’s a lot of Republicans hiding from it."
He said, however, that, "I don’t think anything Republicans are speaking to right now would make a significant change.
"If I give a gun to my brother, that should be subject to a background check," he said. "If an individual chooses to engage in a regulated transaction of purchasing a firearm, they are saying, ‘You are allowed to check my mental health history.’ "
Murphy said assault weapons should be banned, but in lieu of that, the nation should at least take "baby steps" including banning bump stock and high-capacity magazines.
"These weapons are designed for war," he said. "If you need 50 rounds to kill a deer, you need a new sport."
Jolly and Murphy have been touring the nation giving talks on the causes of gridlock in Washington and how to solve it, but much of their appearance at the Café Con Tampa event Friday focused on gun issues.
Contact William March at [email protected]