Manatee, Sarasota delegates push for stronger gun control

Shooting victim and former U.S. Rep. Gaby Giffords speaks at gun control rally in Philadelphia

Former U.S. Rep. Gaby Giffords, D-Ariz., spoke Tuesday at gun control rally that coincided with the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
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Former U.S. Rep. Gaby Giffords, D-Ariz., spoke Tuesday at gun control rally that coincided with the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Combatting gun violence in Florida and the rest of the nation was at the forefront Tuesday of a rally at the Democratic National Convention.

“It’s one thing to be able to protect your home but you don’t need an assault weapon to do it,” said Lawrence Jennis, West Manatee fire commissioner and a Hillary Clinton delegate.

Preventing gun violence is a part of the “Ensure the Health and Safety of All Americans” plank of the Democratic Party platform. Sarasota and Manatee county delegates are among those ready to see how the party will approach and improve gun laws.

This weekend’s Club Blu Bar and Grill shooting left many Floridians once again hurt and frustrated by gun violence. The Sarasota-Manatee delegation wants tighter gun laws in the state.

Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who led the sit-in on the House floor in June to urge gun control reform, delivered a speech to an emotional crowd at a gun control rally Tuesday morning.


Some delegates claimed certain weapons were designed with only one use in mind.

“I’ve always believed in a handgun ban because they’re meant for killing people, not hunting or anything. They have one use,” said David Beaton, co-founder of WSLR radio in Sarasota and a Bernie Sanders delegate to the convention.

“The name — (assault weapon) — itself implies their only use and there is no place for them in society,” added Deanie Bergbreiter, member of the Sarasota Democratic Party and a Sanders delegate.

Two delegation members said they had issues with Florida gun policy prior to the recent shootings at Pulse night club in Orlando and Club Blu Bar and Grill in Fort Myers.

Christine Jennings, a Clinton delegate and chairwoman of the SDP, has had strong feelings about firearms for quite some time, she said.

“Common sense says guns kill people,” Jennings said. “Hunting guns are OK, but assault style-weapons should be banned and no one should have them.”

“You shouldn’t have to wait three days to receive a gun from a gun shop, and be able to walk into and out of a gun show with a gun,” Jennis said.

In February, Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the Florida Senate judiciary chairman, stopped bills to make Florida an open-carry state and allow guns in Florida airports.

After the announcement, Portilla told a reporter at the Miami Herald: “Open carry is not going to happen. It’s done.”

Some delegates share the sentiment. Clinton delegate Michael Fischer said when he attended Florida Gulf Coast University, a group of students on campus tried to raise awareness and support for carrying weapons freely on campus.

“I’m totally against open carry,” Fischer said.

“Open carry is unnecessary,” Jennis agreed.

Gun violence survivor and former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords delivered a speech to the crowd. Giffords sustained a gunshot wound to the head during a constituent meeting in Tuscon, Ariz., in 2011 and spent months regaining her ability to walk and speak.

Fischer, like Giffords, said stopping gun violence takes more than just courage.

“A good guy with a gun can’t save the situation,” Fischer said. “If everyone has a gun, that still doesn’t mean the bad guy can be stopped.”

Cherea M. Hatcher, Temple University 2016, Chereamonet@gmail.com, 646-761-8913 or go to linkedin.com/in/chereahatcher.

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