Christie: Are the Parkland shooting teens fair game for conservative critics?

Emma Gonzalez, center, and the other student activists from Parkland cheer on stage at the end of the March for Our Lives rally in Washington. The attacks on the teenage survivors of the shooting have been fierce from the beginning, and have only continued since the students helped spearhead hundreds of protests last month. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

It’s been a month and half since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 students and school personnel dead at the hands of 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz.

RELATED: Depression is setting in, concerned Parkland students say at town hall

Thanks to the outspokenness and energy of surviving students like David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, the tragic shooting has sparked a movement against gun violence and for common-sense gun control laws. The constant rhetoric, rallies and TV appearances of Parkland shooting survivors moved a previously immovable Florida Legislature to enact in three weeks what it had refused to do in nearly three decades: stricter gun controls.

Though state lawmakers still have more work to do, long-time Tallahassee political observers marveled at what these well-spoken, impatient teens have already been able to accomplish.

RELATED: POINT OF VIEW: Politicians, put yourselves in Parkland survivors’ shoes

But those efforts, and the teens’ further demands for more stricter gun controls, have put them squarely in the sights of the powerful gun lobby led by the influential National Rifle Association.

As a result, they’ve been attacked repeatedly by regular folks, politicians, celebrities and even law-enforcement officers on radio, TV and in social media.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham apologized under pressure last week for taunting a survivor of the school shooting in Parkland as several companies confirmed they would pull advertising from her show. (Laura Segall/The New York Times)

Most recently:

  • Fox News host and conservative firebrand Laura Ingraham was forced to take a week off from her show after she was pilloried for criticizing Hogg on Twitter after he talked about his difficulties getting into the University of California.
  • Artist and musician Frank Stallone  was forced to apologize after a profanity-laced criticism of the Parkland survivors over the weekend.
Ted Nugent (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)

But rocker and NRA board member Ted Nugent has been unapologetic. Nugent, who began his attack of the Parkland teens over the weekend, doubled down on WABC’s Curtis + Cosby show on Monday.

“(David Hogg) has been brainwashed, it’s tragic,” Nugent said. “I don’t think the guy can be fixed. … This guy is a lost cause. He is consumed with hate. He is part of the problem, not the solution.”

Nugent also said Hogg and the Douglas High School students are “not very educated” and “wouldn’t know an AR-15 from a pterodactyl.”

Pro-gun supporters and others argue that the teens stepped into a serious grown-up issue and thus relinquished the right to be treated with kid gloves. If you dance to the music, you’ve got to pay the piper, they say.

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But what do you think?

Do you agree with the criticisms being leveled against the student survivors of the Douglas High School shooting by right wing and NRA supporters? Or should there be a hands-off approach to these outspoken teens who suffered an unimaginable tragedy?

Take poll here:

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: Should people be allowed to bring guns into the Tax Collector’s office?

A line of people waiting to get into the county Tax Collector’s office snakes through lobby of the Palm Beach County Governmental Center. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

What is going on? That’s the question a lot of folks had after reading the below op-ed from Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon earlier this month.

“Just last month, our agency experienced two incidents in our service centers when customers brought guns into our workplace. Sadly, these incidents frighten employees,” Gannon wrote.

Once again, Florida’s struggles with its image as “the Gunshine State” — and state lawmakers’ efforts to allow guns everywhere — has an unexpected consequence.

The tax collector is not exactly on everyone Christmas card list. And it just so happens that the holiday season coincides with the office’s busy property tax collection season.

RELATED: Christie commentary: Guns, shopping malls are a bad retail mix

Palm Beach County Tax Collector has asked state Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, to sponsor legislation outlawing guns from tax collector’s offices.

With all of that stress, Gannon felt that this not the place for folks to bring firearms — even those with concealed carry permits. She wants there to be a law.

These days, where folks can legally carry or purchase firearms is becoming a dicey issue. Attitudes depend on where you live in the state. For example, I heard that the Dick’s Sporting Goods in the Seminole Town Center in Sanford sells guns.

Is Gannon’s request infringing on Second Amendment rights?

 

POINT OF VIEW: Protect employees, public from workplace violence

Collecting taxes and fees from the public is not an easy job. The 300 dedicated employees of the Palm Beach County Tax Collector’s Office do their best to make the experience as pleasant and efficient as possible. Unfortunately, they must also serve angry and upset clients, some of whom threaten violence.

Just last month, our agency experienced two incidents in our service centers when customers brought guns into our workplace. Sadly, these incidents frighten employees.

Last month also marked the beginning of property tax collection, our busiest season, with agency employees serving nearly 7,000 clients in person at seven service centers across Palm Beach County. I am upset to think of the tragic consequences these two incidents could have had on our agency’s employees and the public we serve.

Workplace violence must be stopped; which is why I asked state Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, to introduce an amendment to Senate Bill 134 that would have helped protect Tax Collector office employees as well as the public.

The amendment would add all Tax Collector offices to the list of places where concealed weapon permit-holders are restricted from carrying guns. Examples of places already on this list include courthouses, polling places, schools and any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality or special district. When you consider the amount of money our agency handles, the contentious nature of taxation and fees and the sheer number of clients we serve in person, it only makes sense to add Tax Collector offices to this list.

Unfortunately, Sen. Powell’s amendment did not even make it out of the Dec. 5 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. SB 134 sought to allow Floridians with concealed weapons licenses to carry firearms up to the entrance of courthouses. Fortunately, it was opposed 6-4.

The 2018 legislative session begins on Jan. 9. I urge you to contact your local representatives now to make your voice heard. We must continue to take action to protect employees and the public from workplace violence.

ANNE M. GANNON, WEST PALM BEACH

Editor’s note: Anne M. Gannon is the Palm Beach County tax collector.

Goodman: Alexandria shooting shows ‘there’s too much hate’ in our politics, GOP congressman says

We don’t yet know the motives of the gunman who opened fire on Republican congressmen and staffers who were practicing at a peaceful park in Alexandria, Va., for a charity baseball game.

But the vitriol in Washington, D.C., is so intense over our politics, the divisions in America so bitter, that it is easy to jump to the same conclusion as Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., who was at the practice and survived the barrage of gunfire that severely wounded a colleague, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and wounded three others.

“This hatefulness that we see in this country today over policy differences, it’s got to stop,” Davis told CNN. This is his “breaking point,” he said. The political rhetoric of hate and division, including on social media and the 24-hour news cycle, has to end.

“I think Republicans and Democrats need to use this today, today, to stand together and say, ‘Stop! Let’s work together. Let’s get things done. We can have our differences but let’s not let it lead to such hate.'”

Even if it turns out that the shooter, identified as James Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill., had no political motive, it speaks volumes that the nation’s current animosities leap to mind when processing such unprovoked violence.

Can America ratchet down the animosities? Is this a warning of what may happen if we do not?

UPDATE 12:16 p.m.

Washington Post reports:

The man suspected of firing dozens of rounds into an Alexandria baseball field Wednesday morning has been identified by federal law enforcement officials as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill.

A Facebook page belonging to a person with the same name includes pictures of Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, and rhetoric against President Trump, including a post that reads: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”

Hodgkinson was among those taken to a hospital Wednesday, and President Trump announced that he had died from “his injuries.”

Charles Orear, 50, a restaurant manager from St. Louis, said in an interview Wednesday that he became friendly with Hodgkinson during their work together in Iowa on Sanders’s presidential campaign. Orear said Hodgkinson was a passionate progressive and showed no signs of violence or malice toward others.

 “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Orear said when told by phone about the shooting.

Orear described Hodgkinson as a “quiet guy” who was “very mellow, very reserved” when they stayed overnight at the home of a Sanders’s supporter in Rock Island, Ill., after canvassing for the Vermont senator.

“He was this union tradesman, pretty stocky, and we stayed up talking politics,” he said. “He was more on the really progressive side of things.”

When informed that the suspect’s Facebook page prominently features Sanders’s image, the senator’s spokesman Michael Briggs said:

“Our prayers go out for a full recovery of Rep. Scalise, the congressional aides and police officers who were injured. We’ve got to stop the violence.”

Christie: Other child victims also deserve President Trump’s attention, Post reader says

In this April 4 photo, Abdel Hameed Alyousef, 29, holds his twin babies who were killed during a suspected chemical weapons attack, in Khan Sheikhoun in the northern province of Idlib, Syria. France’s foreign minister says chemical analysis of samples taken from a deadly sarin gas attack in Syria shows that the nerve agent used “bears the signature” of President Bashar Assad’s government and shows it was responsible. (Alaa Alyousef via AP, File)

A few weeks ago President Trump, quickly reacting to 22 children being gassed, ordered a missile attack on a Syrian airfield. Because the use of gas is universally unacceptable, the president generally received bipartisan support for his action. Although the attack was somewhat knee jerk in nature, most people gave him a pass because children were involved.

A week later, 40 children were among the scores of people who died in Beirut while trying to find something to eat. A bomb explosion may not have the same visceral effect as gas, the carnage described in graphic detail. Unless I missed the coverage, there was no reaction from the White House, although, obviously, dead children are dead children, regardless of the cause.

With so many children dying in a relatively short period of time, I wonder whether anyone thought back to the tragic killings of 20 first-grade pupils in Newtown, Conn. One life is certainly as important as another. Yet all that was asked of our Congress was to pass more comprehensive regulations  on the sale of guns. Congress, or at least the Republicans in Congress, either have no conscience or have sold them to the NRA.

According to a Huffington Post article, “There Have Been Over 200 School Shooting Incidents Since The Sandy Hook Massacre,” (Dec. 14) and Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization of more than 3 million mayors, moms, cops, teachers, survivors, gun owners and everyday Americans working to end gun violence, there have been more than 200 school shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, averaging about one shooting per week.

These shootings resulted in approximately 94 gun-related deaths and 156 injuries.

I find it difficult to comprehend why President Trump who campaigned for “America First” chooses as his first aggressive action an attack in Syria, rather than addressing the obvious problems at home. This is only one example of poor judgment our president has exhibited during his first 100 days in office.

BURT EDELCHICK, HOBE SOUND

Goodman: Appeals court hits bull’s-eye with ‘Docs v Glocks’ takedown

Score one for good thinking. A federal appeals court Thursday struck down the inane Florida law that prohibited physicians from asking their patients whether there’s a gun in the house that’s stored safely.

The law, the only one like it in the United States, has helped mold our risible reputation as the “Gunshine State.” It was signed in 2011 by Gov. Rick Scott with strong backing from the National Rifle Association and the GOP-led Legislature, who said doctors were overstepping their bounds and pushing an anti-Second Amendment agenda.

Medical groups and others quickly challenged the law, and it’s been winding through state and federal courts ever since.

Now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta has ruled, in a 10-to-1 decision, that the law infringes upon doctors’ freedom of speech. Any patient who doesn’t like a doctor’s questions about gun ownership can find another doctor, the court said.

“The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right,” wrote Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan in one of two majority opinions. “There is no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.”

The American Civil Liberties Union had fought hard against the law. “We are thrilled that the court has finally put to bed the nonsensical and dangerous idea that a doctor speaking with a patient about gun safety somehow threatens the right to own a gun,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

The Associated Press reports:

The 11th Circuit noted that Florida lawmakers appeared to base the law on “six anecdotes” about physicians’ discussions of guns in their examination rooms and little other concrete evidence that there is an actual problem. And doctors who violated the law could face professional discipline, a fine or possibly loss of their medical licenses.

“There was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights,” Jordan wrote for the court.

The Washington Post explains why doctors might want to ask patients about guns:

Several large professional medical groups have said it is within the bounds of ethical medical care for doctors to ask about gun safety at home, in the way a physician might ask parents of small children if they have a backyard pool. A May 2016 review, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, noted that the majority of physicians believe that “they have the right to counsel patients about firearms.”

“Firearm violence is an important health problem, and most physicians agree that they should help prevent that violence,” Garen J. Wintemute, a co-author of the paper and a public health expert at the University of California Davis, told The Washington Post in May…

Doctors are not wholly united on this front. Some groups, such as Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, have voiced their dissent, believing that doctors should not discuss guns with their patients. (Medical groups had “declared a culture war on gun ownership,” the DRGO said on its website. It also warned that “your doctor may have a personal prejudice against gun ownership, shaped by her training in medical school or residency.”)

The appeals court, to its great credit, upheld the primacy of the First Amendment as a bedrock of American liberties. That reminder came from Circuit Judge William Pryor, who was a finalist in President Donald J. Trump’s search for a U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

In a separate concurring opinion, Pryor said that the First Amendment must protect all points of view.

“The promise of free speech is that even when one holds an unpopular point of view, the state cannot stifle it,” he wrote.

Pryor added:

The First Amendment is a counter-majoritarian bulwark against tyranny. “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,” [as the Constitution states,] cannot mean “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech a majority likes.”…

If we upheld the Act, we could set a precedent for many other restrictions of potentially unpopular speech …

The First Amendment requires the protection of ideas that some people might find distasteful
because tomorrow the tables might be turned.

Well said.

Take our poll, and let us know whether you agree.

Christie: Tell us: How do we stop these mass shootings?

People take cover at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport after a gunman killed 5 people and injured many more on January 6, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
People take cover at the Fort Lauderdale Airport after a gunman killed 5 people and injured many more on Jan. 6. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

What do we do now?

What do we do after another mass shooting by an alleged mentally ill individual takes the lives of so many.

Even more disturbing is how the Friday afternoon bloodbath at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport further exposes how our airport terminals are big, tempting — some say, soft — targets for armed individuals who want to terrorize or just kill other people.

In March, three coordinated suicide bombings in Brussels, Belgium – two at Brussels Airport and one at a metro station – killed 32 civilians and injured more than 300. The airport explosions were in a departure hall.

In October, three gunmen with automatic weapons and suicide bombs staged an attack at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 45 people and injuring 230. Two of the attackers opened fire near a security checkpoint’s x-ray scanner, and detonated bombs when police returned fire. The third attacker set off a bomb in the parking lot across the street from the terminal.

And now, Fort Lauderdale. According to the latest reports, 26-year-old Esteban Santiago got off a Delta Airlines flight from Anchorage, Alaska, pulled his gun from his checked bag in the baggage area, loaded it in the bathroom and shot at least 13 people — killing five and sending eight people to nearby Broward Health Medical Center.

Santiago, who was discharged from the Army National Guard in August for “unsatisfactory performance,” served in Iraq for about a year starting in 2010. He was a combat engineer.

CNN reported that Santiago showed up at the Anchorage FBI office recently, and was checked into a mental facility after he said he heard voices telling him to join ISIS. And members of his family are now telling media outlets that Santiago “lost his mind in Iraq.”

Whatever his reason may be, our minds automatically go what we can do to prevent this from happening again on U.S. soil. A few ideas:

  1. Stop allowing passengers to carry guns and ammunition in their checked bags on airline flights.
  2. Beef up armed security at U.S. airports and ease restrictions on stop and frisk.
  3. Keep mentally ill people from owning and acquiring firearms in the first place.

But what freedoms would we be willing to give up as a result?

For example, American travelers are notorious for not wanting anything to slow down — read that, ruin — their vacations. We bristle, for example, every time we have to take off our shoes or belt at the airport security checkpoint.

What would you suggest? Tell us: How do we stop these mass shootings?

Letter: Gov. Rick Scott prefers guns to helping poor women get health care

Protesters converged in 2012 on the opening of a Wellington abortion clinic.
File photo

Gov. Rick Scott has outdone himself. He has deprived Planned Parenthood of $500,000 in funds to help the poor in Palm Beach County; 95 percent of its services are birth control, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and women’s health — not abortions.

This while he is giving $3.1 million in state funds for a gun range in Palm Beach Gardens. Private ranges are not enough.

What a disgusting misuse of public funds. We, the brilliant people of Florida, voted for this guy.

GAIL BRECHER, WEST PALM BEACH

Editor’s note: Gail Brecher is an advanced registered nurse practitioner.