Goodman: Rubio destroyed his own argument against gun control (Does he realize it?)

Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky asks Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), right, if he will continue to accept money from the NRA during a CNN town hall meeting on Wednesday at the BB&T Center. (Michael Laughlin/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Marco Rubio provided much of the drama at Wednesday night’s remarkable town hall on gun violence.

First, simply by showing up in blue Broward County, and to face hundreds of grieving teenage survivors of the Parkland school shooting and their traumatized friends and parents.

There was the moment when Fred Guttenberg, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Jaime in the slaughter, told him: “Your comments this week, and those of our president, have been pathetically weak.”

The moment when student Cameron Kasky asked Rubio to refuse accepting any more money from the National Rifle Association (NRA) — and, perhaps mentally flashing on the $3.3 million he got from NRA in 2016, Rubio said no. “The answer to the question is that people buy into my agenda.”

But to me, the most important moment came when Chris Grady, a Douglas High senior, asked Rubio, “Would you agree that there is no place in our society for large capacity magazines capable of firing off — over — from 15 to 30 rounds and if not more?”

And Rubio said that “after this and some of the details I learned about it, I’m reconsidering that position, and I’ll tell you why… Because while it may not prevent an attack, it may save lives in an attack.”

With fewer bullets for the killer to fire, “three or four people might be alive today.”

“It wouldn’t have prevented the attack but it made it less lethal,” Rubio said.

Bingo! That’s exactly what people who urge banning semiautomatic weapons are saying.

Nothing is going to eliminate all gun deaths in America. And nothing is going to completely keep demented people from getting hold of firearms. But we can at least limit those guns’ lethality.

Guns like the AR-15, which fire with such force that they left victims of the Parkland school shooting “with only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet,” an emergency room radiologist tells us, via The Atlantic. “There was nothing left to repair.”

If you see the logic of making gun cartridges less lethal, then you must see the logic of  making guns themselves less lethal.

Rubio, possibly without knowing it, destroyed his own longstanding argument. The day after the Parkland shooting, Rubio took to the Senate floor to say gun-control measures don’t work. “Whether it is a political assassination of one person or the mass killing of many, if one person decides to do it and they are committed to that task, it is a very difficult thing to stop,” he said, before adding, “that does not mean we should not try to prevent as many of them as we can.”

Yes, stopping a determined killer is a hard thing to do. But once you’ve allowed that the lethality of the instrument is the determining factor in whether something should or shouldn’t be lawful, then why not be consistent? Why not concede that we should be making it much harder for would-be killers to get their hands on armaments that are essentially weapons of war?

Rubio should be applauded for changing his mind on high-capacity ammo magazines. It should be a short step to changing his mind on assault weapons, period.

Take it, Senator.

Christie: Parkland students getting a hard lesson about #thoughtsandprayers in Tallahassee

Buses pick up the kids to take them back to West Boca. West Boca High School students walked to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. (Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post)

In the immediate aftermath of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Palm Beach Post Editorial Board quickly published an emotionally raw piece aimed at political leaders’ typically empty statements following such a tragedy.

The editorial focused specifically on the well-worn, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of this tragic shooting,” or something to that effect. From the White House to the U.S. Senate to the Florida Governors Mansion, the tweets came fast and furious.

Feeling much the same emotion, the Editorial Board told them, “With all due respect, save it.” What we need is action, not thoughts and prayers.

RELATED: Scott holds Parkland shooting meetings; House rejects assault gun ban

Well, in the ensuing week, the Editorial Board was criticized by a handful but lauded by many for saying, as one reader put it, “what needed to be said.” And it appears that sentiment has become part of the anthem of Stoneman Douglas High students as they’ve made their way to Tallahassee to meet with state lawmakers today.

Sarah Lopez, a tenth grade West Boca High School student who walked to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Tuesday cries as she stands in front of a memorial. She said it took her 4 hours to walk there and “there was nothing to compare to the feeling that you can change things”. (Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post)

They will rightly demand action. But as the House of Representatives showed them on Tuesday, they likely won’t get the action they want. The chamber, by a resounding 71-36 vote, said “no” to even discussing a proposed bill to ban the deadly AR-15 military-style assault weapon reportedly used by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz to kill 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High on Feb. 14.

But whether the students are successful at turning a Legislature that is culturally and financially in sync with the gun lobby is not the point.

This is an eye-opening experience for them (and the parents of the state’s other 2.8 million students) about how Florida politics works. This is better than anything they could have learned in a Civics class. And what matters is what they do with this experience. Starting today.

Following is the Post’s Feb. 15 editorial in its entirety:

Editorial: Thoughts and prayers won’t stop these mass shootings

Save the thoughts and prayers. We need action. Now.

There was another mass shooting in the United States Wednesday afternoon. This one was at a school. The 18th shooting at a school this year, a year that is not yet 7 weeks old, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

Law enforcement authorities said 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student, terrorized Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and shot and killed 17 people, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Cruz, who was apparently expelled from the high school last year, is in police custody. But why he committed this heinous act is still a mystery.

It could have been far worse if not for the textbook way in which law enforcement — including Parkland Police and Coconut Creek — handled this horrific incident, according to various experts. That was likely due to the sad fact that police nationwide have run this drill so many times since Columbine and Sandy Hook.

On Wednesday, as then, our political leaders were quick to send their thoughts and prayers to everyone involved.

Gov. Rick Scott tweeted: “Just spoke with @POTUS about shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. My thoughts and prayers are with the students, their families and the entire community. We will continue to receive briefings from law enforcement and issue updates.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam tweeted: “Prayers for all the students, teachers and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. And to our first responders, be safe and godspeed.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement: “Praying for everyone involved in today’s shooting … I am on the way with my victim advocates and we will be available in full force to help all victims and their families with any services they need.”

With all due respect, save it.

What these grieving parents and students need is for you to finally enact some common-sense gun control legislation, rather than continuing to loosen gun laws and make these terrible shootings more likely.

You can stop trying to allow guns on Florida school and college campuses. You can stop gutting the state’s concealed weapons laws. You can pony up the money for more school police.

No fewer than 150,000 American public school students have gone through one of these tragedies. Even if they weren’t physically wounded, they now carry the psychological scars of watching a classmate bleed out in front of them.

“I thought this was a drill we were supposed to have,” teacher Melissa Fallowski, told CNN’s Jake Tapper, her voice still shaking. “Society failed us today.”

Yes. Yes, it did.

Crosses and flowers hang on a fence outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Friday in memory of the 17 people killed in a shooting. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Reader Point of View: Broward school shooting lifts suburban affluence’s veil of safety

A father kisses his daughter after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

As grieving parents, and former classmates and colleagues of those who died during Wednesday’s mass shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland struggle with the aftermath of the horrific event, dozens of Palm Beach Post readers have been weighing in with their thoughts.

One that stood out was a Letter to the Editor from a former long-time guidance counselor at the suburban Broward County high school who wanted to point up how the shooting shows that even supposedly safe, affluent schools struggle with students who have mental health issues.

And that’s why more financial resources are needed at Florida public schools to deal with this issue.

Following is the letter from Robert Kenner, who now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, in its entirety:

This is my first letter to a newspaper. But in the wake of this week’s tragic shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I’m motivated to share my thoughts and feelings.

I retired two years ago as a Broward County guidance counselor who worked my last 6-1/2 years at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. I am distraught over the carnage in my old school, but I’m not surprised. The commentators on television are oblivious to the immense stressors on our schoolkids, and the paucity of mental health resources they are offered.

My first five years at Stoneman Douglas High, my caseload was 800 students. My last year-and-a-half. my caseload was lower, but was still more than over 600 students. In addition, I was responsible for doing time-consuming Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends a student-to-counselor ratio of 250:1. When I retired, we had five full-time guidance counselors and a (supervisory) Director for a student population of about 3,400.

The reason for the lack of master’s-degree level guidance counselor services was always budgetary. We guidance counselors, and our fellow teachers, administrators, social workers and family therapists did the very best we could sincerely do caring for each of our kids. But unless the funding paradigm for our public schools — and society, overall — embrace community mental health, we are missing the message that underlies our societal tragedies.

Yes, Stoneman Douglas High is a great school with terrific kids, and school staff that epitomizes excellence. However, it has not been immune from tragedy. When I was there, we had three suicides in a period of a year-and-a-half. These tragedies led me to write a brochure titled, “The Psychological Challenges of Affluence,” which I hoped would open parents’ minds to monitoring their kid’s mental health and the value of seeking therapeutic assistance when needed.

For example, the brochure points out: “Suburban, affluent youth are not seen as being at-risk, but they are; affluence does not guarantee emotional and mental health.”

Indeed, no public school or community is immune to mental health issues. We need to provide more mental health support for all of our students.

Editor’s note: Share your thoughts about this op-ed in the Comments section.

Goodman: Florida’s system on ex-felon voting not just massively unfair. It’s ‘unconstitutional’

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press via AP)

In 2010, an ex-convict in Florida named Steven Warner cast a ballot in an election. This is illegal, because unless felons jump through the hoops of a lengthy clemency process, felons in Florida are barred from voting for life.

Warner wanted his rights restored, and, after waiting the required five to seven years after completing all the terms of his sentence (prison, parole, probation, fines), he found himself three years later in front of the state’s Executive Clemency Board.

Gov. Rick Scott, who sits on the board along with his cabinet, asked Warner about his illegal voting.

“Actually, I voted for you,” Warner said.

Scott laughed, then said, “I probably shouldn’t respond to that.” A few seconds passed. Then Scott granted the former felon his voting rights.

Warner is white. But the board rejected five other former felons who had cast illegal ballots on that basis. Will it surprise anyone that four of those five were African-American?

This is the sort of arbitrary, imperious and no doubt politically motivated decision-making that U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker cited in the stunning ruling he issued on Thursday evening, declaring Florida’s method of restoring felons’ rights unconstitutional.

The federal judge’s decision is an explosive truth-bomb aimed squarely at a system which gives the governor, much like a medieval king, “unfettered discretion to deny clemency at any time, for any reason.” Or as Scott himself said at one hearing, according to the ruling: “We can do whatever we want.”

“In Florida, elected partisan officials have extraordinary authority to grant or withhold the right to vote from hundreds of thousands of people without any constraints, guidelines or standards,” Walker wrote. “The question…is whether such a system passes constitutional muster. It doesn’t.”

His powerhouse ruling comes, coincidentally, nine days after state judges approved a measure for November’s ballot which, if approved by voters, will automatically restore voting rights of felons after they’ve served their sentences, except for murderers and sex offenders. It gives the drive for the much-needed Amendment 4 an incalculable boost.

And it is a withering attack on Scott, just as the two-term Republican is expected to announce a run for Senate against Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent.

For it is the miserly system that Scott established in 2011 to enable a few lucky ex-cons to have their rights restored that is flayed in Walker’s blistering decision.

Unlike the Voting Restoration Amendment drive — which has focused on the inequity of denying some 1.7 million Floridians their rights — Walker zeroes in on the extremely arbitrary way in which they might get those rights returned.

“To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s governor has absolute veto authority,” Walker writes. “No standards guide the panel.”

To be clear, the judge said it is constitutional for Florida to bar felons from voting for life, if the state wants to continue to be one of the three or four states in the nation to do so. “But once a state provides for restoration,” he writes, “its process cannot offend the Constitution.”

It is decidedly unconstitutional to have a system based on race, he writes. Or a system that’s so arbitrary that the governor can decide whether to grant the right to vote depending on whether that ex-felon is going to vote Republican or a Democrat. It’s unconstitutional to make ex-convicts meet standards of behavior that are never really defined — or as Walker scorchingly calls them — “frankly, mythical.”

The results of Scott’s mean-spirited system are perfectly clear. When Charlie Crist was governor, the then-Republican tried to end the state’s backwardness with executive clemency rules in 2007 that automatically restored voting rights for those who served sentences for lesser felonies. More than 155,000 felons got their rights back.

Scott overturned that, and then some. His 2011 rules, with their five- to seven-year waiting periods and demands for unspecified sterling behavior, are now often cited as the toughest in the nation. In the last seven years, just 3,000  people have received restorations.

And more than 10,000 people are on a backlog of cases waiting for hearings to have their rights restored.

“The context of these numbers is not lost on this court,” Walker writes. “More than one-tenth of Florida’s voting population — nearly 1.7 million as of 2016 — cannot vote because they have been decimated from the body politic. More than one in five of Florida’s African American voting age population cannot vote.

“If any of these citizens wishes to earn back their fundamental right to vote,” he adds, “they must plod through a gauntlet of constitutionally infirm hurdles. No more.”

Walker did not impose a solution — yet. He ordered lawyers for ex-cons and the state to file briefs related to remedies before Feb. 12.

So this ruling makes the second big development within two weeks with the potential to demolish Florida’s shameful status quo that prevents most ex-felons from reentering civil society despite having served their sentences.

On Friday came a third. The Constitution Revision Commission decided to consider the issue after Warner’s explosive ruling. The commission, which meets every 20 years to recommend possible amendments to the state constitution, had already considered several proposals aimed at automatically restoring rights for ex-felons. But members withdrew them after the voting-restoration petition drive got Amendment 4 onto the ballot, fearing that too many similar-sounding ballot initiatives would confuse voters and dilute all of the initiatives’ chances.

Would the same thing happen with a new ballot proposal aimed not at automatic restoration but at fixing the clemency process? That’s one of the next things to watch as the energy for reforming this long-stultified system gains unexpected momentum.