Home>Opinion>From the Senate: Removing Weapons from Dangerous Hands

From the Senate: Removing Weapons from Dangerous Hands

By State Senator Vin Gopal, March 15 2018 2:29 pm

The Parkland, Florida shooter had a documented history of violence.

The shooter’s public attorney, Howard Finklestein, acknowledged in a New York Times article that the shooter “exhibited every single known red flag, from killing animals, to having a cache of weapons, to disruptive behavior, to saying he wanted to be a school shooter.”

The question we must now ask ourselves is why was this person, who demonstrated known indicators of violence, able to obtain an assault-style rifle?

There is no logical reason. It defies common sense and it underscores the desperate need for change.

We must take action to remedy this. I have introduced a three-part bill package that looks to enact common sense gun regulations to keep firearms out of the hands of people like the Parkland shooter. It includes a bill that prohibits an individual who has been convicted of animal cruelty from possessing or purchasing a firearm; a bill requiring the safe storage of a firearm and establishes penalties for improper firearm storage; and a bill which establishes a process for a family member, law enforcement agency, or teacher to petition a court to have a person’s firearms temporarily seized when that the person poses a significant danger to themselves or others.

We must pay attention to predictors of violence. The FBI sees animal cruelty as a predictor of violence against people and considers past animal abuse when profiling serial criminals. In assessing youth at risk of becoming violent, the U.S. Department of Justice stresses a history of animal abuse.

Responsible firearm owners know that gun safety applies to a firearm both in use and idle. Leaving a firearm unlocked and accessible — be it by an innocent child or an individual with malintent — is irresponsible and inexcusable.

While I know most gun owners embrace gun safety standards, I call on all gun owners to take responsibility for their weapons and do their part in keeping themselves, their families and their communities safe.

The people closest to a troubled individual are most likely to notice disturbing behaviors and indicators of violence. In order to prevent future shootings, we need to empower these people to speak out in order to remove that person’s weapon and provide them with a structure for doing so.

Too many lives have been lost while turning a blind eye to glaring indicators of violence. It is time to take a proactive stance against senseless mass shootings and keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who have no business possessing them.

Senator Vin Gopal

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