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How Recent Shootings In Florida Are Affecting Politics And Policy In The State


The deaths at that video game event yesterday follow another fatal shooting at a high school football game in Jacksonville on Friday night. To talk about whether shootings in Florida are having an impact on politics and policy in the state, Steve Bousquet joins us now. He's Tallahassee bureau chief for the Tampa Bay Times. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.


SHAPIRO: Florida has, sadly, had many high-profile mass shootings in the last few years, from Pulse nightclub in 2016 to Parkland. How have laws in the state changed over these shootings?

BOUSQUET: The big change came after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre in February when the state passed a law that changes the age from 18 to 21 to purchase a handgun and imposed a three-day wait and made it easier, in many cases, for police to deny guns to people who had mental health issues in their past.

But the violence continues. And in addition to the cases you've mentioned, Ari, there's still a tremendous amount of debate and consternation in this state over the so-called stand your ground case, in which an unarmed man was shot to death in Clearwater in a fight over a parking space recently.

SHAPIRO: Over the weekend, Florida Governor Rick Scott reacted to the shooting at the video game tournament saying more needs to happen. Let's listen to part of what he said.


RICK SCOTT: It's horrible. But we have got to change. We've got to really stop and say to ourselves, there's something wrong. Why are young men willing to give up their life, or don't - why don't they value somebody else's life?

SHAPIRO: And then he was asked a bunch of times whether part of the problem is access to guns. He avoided answering that question. So what do you think he's really saying there?

SCOTT: Well, I think the governor is trying to finesse his way around the question of additional gun restrictions, which he opposes. You know, he had a break with the NRA earlier this year.

And I think I'm hearing a conversation in Florida move and pivot into an area where there's a focus, particularly by Republicans, on the question of why there's so much violence in our streets, and why, you know, people want to settle arguments and disputes, as appears to be the case at the video game tournament - to settle a dispute, you know, at the hand of a gun.

SHAPIRO: Of course, Governor Scott is now running for Senate. It's this very high-profile Senate race. Do you think the issue of guns is going to shape that race?

BOUSQUET: I'm skeptical. Bill Nelson, the Democrat, while he favors additional gun restrictions, has not made this a priority in the campaign. And for those who've been following the news here, the issue of the environment and the algae - toxic algae in our waterways has really captured the focus of a lot of people and the news media here. And there's still an ongoing discussion in Florida about health care and the unwillingness of Rick Scott to want to expand the Medicaid program.

Guns is an important issue, and it's a perennial issue in Florida. But other issues are also competing for the public's attention.

SHAPIRO: There's also a primary race. Voters in Florida will vote tomorrow. The race that's getting all the attention is for the governor, since Rick Scott is running for Senate. Is this going to have an impact on that, do you think?

BOUSQUET: Well, it could. The Republican candidates and Democratic candidates have very different strategies in dealing with the tragedy in Jacksonville over the weekend, and that is that both the Republican candidates, Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis, canceled campaign events in Jacksonville on Monday, saying they wanted to do so out of respect for the community, which is healing and going through a terrible time.

However, the Democratic candidates shuffled their schedules to get into Jacksonville and do events at community centers and churches and elsewhere to emphasize the need to attack the level of gun violence in this state.

SHAPIRO: Steve Bousquet, capital bureau chief for the Tampa Bay Times. Thanks for speaking with us today.

BOUSQUET: OK. Thanks, Ari.