TALLAHASSEE — Richard Martinez, whose 20-year-old son was killed in a shooting rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara in late May, acknowledges that calling for tougher gun-control laws in Florida isn’t easy.
But Martinez, who is traveling the country crusading for political discussion on “sensible” gun regulations, said Wednesday he hoped to leave a powerful message with elected officials as he visited Florida’s Capitol.
“I can’t pretend that I know all the details of your state’s legislation,” Martinez told reporters while visiting the 21st-floor office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “But do you really want to live in a country where little kids have to worry about being shot and killed in their schools? It wasn’t like that when we were growing up.”
Martinez and members of two groups, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, delivered more than 28,000 individually signed postcards from across the nation to the Capitol offices of Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott.
Neither Scott nor Rubio were in their offices Wednesday. At the governor’s office, the postcards were left with the front receptionist.
Brooke Sammon, a spokeswoman for Rubio, said in an email that the senator supports existing background checks on retail sales of guns and was for an effort in the Senate last year that would have “stepped up enforcement of existing gun laws, addressed mental health issues, and provided for school safety while still protecting the Second Amendment.”
“Unfortunately many of the gun control proposals from President Obama and Congress simply target the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens instead of addressing the underlying causes of violence and won’t keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,” Sammon wrote. “Rather than try and undermine Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms, we should focus on the real problems of violence in this country caused by criminals and mentally ill people prone to violence.”
John Tupps, a Scott spokesman, said in an email, “Florida is at a 43 year crime low and Gov. Scott will continue working to keep families safe.”
The postcards are part of the “Not One More” campaign launched by the Everytown and Moms groups that demands action to end gun violence.
The groups say the cards have been signed by more than 625,000 Americans. The cards are being delivered to the governor of each state and every member of Congress.
Erica Lafferty, whose mother was among the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012 in Newtown, Conn., remains encouraged that the U.S. Senate took a vote in April 2013 on expanding background checks on firearms sales, as well as a proposal to ban some semi-automatic weapons modeled after military-assault weapons.
“Despite the fact that it failed, it was defeated by a minority and that is a huge step,” said Lafferty, who participated in the postcard delivery Wednesday. Her mother, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, was the principal at Sandy Hook.
The background-check plan pushed by Obama in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre got 54 votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but it needed 60 to pass.
The message of the postcard campaign may have a more difficult time finding support in the Republican-dominated Florida Capitol, where lawmakers approved five new gun-related measures this year.
The new laws, for example, would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage or increasing rates based on customers owning guns or ammunition. Also, they would allow people to threaten to use force, including showing guns or firing warning shots, in self-defense. Another new law would prevent schoolchildren from being disciplined for simulating guns while playing or for wearing clothes that depict firearms.
As of May 31, there were 1.27 million concealed-weapon or firearm licenses issued in Florida, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The state went over the 1 million mark in December 2012, becoming the first state in the nation to surpass that figure.
And the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted 869,457 background checks — each check includes criminal history and mental-health database reviews — on firearm purchases in 2013.
The 2013 number, bolstered by a rush to purchase guns in the first half of the year as the U.S. Senate debated new gun laws, easily outpaced the 797,610 background checks conducted in 2012.
Through the first six months of this year, the numbers are slightly ahead of 2012, with 373,390 checks having been conducted on firearm purchases.
Martinez’s son, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, was one of seven people killed, including the gunman, as a result of a shooting spree on and near the California campus. He said his mission isn’t to ban all guns, and he supports the right of gun owners to have their weapons.
“I understand there is not one solution for this, but we haven’t even tried to put a dent in it,” he said. “And there is a refusal of our political leaders to even discuss the issue.”