The sheriff who presides over the county where the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting took place has a simple message for political leaders in his jurisdiction: if you want to win elections there, you must support gun reform.
“If you're an elected official, and you want to keep things the way they are, and not do things differently, if you want to keep gun laws as they are now, you will not get reelected in Broward County,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said on Thursday night during a vigil honoring victims. His message was greeted with cheers of support from mourners in the audience.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel: "If you're an elected official, and you want to keep things the way they are...if you want to keep gun laws as they are now, you will not get reelected in Broward County" https://t.co/bLrHxgscob pic.twitter.com/iVbBgLqfSB— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 16, 2018
While some across the country have argued it’s too soon to discuss changes to gun laws, and that families ought to be allowed to grieve before we start that conversation, Israel’s warning to politicians running in his county seems appropriate. Indeed, some of the most fervent calls for gun reform have actually come from the Parkland, Florida, residents and families of the victims themselves.
Israel urged lawmakers to pass laws that would allow police to question individuals making threats on social media. “People are going to be rightfully concerned about their rights ? as am I,” he said during a press conference earlier this week. “But what about these students? What about the rights of young kids who go to schools?”
The man who perpetrated the killing of 17 individuals at the high school, Nikolas Cruz, reportedly posted such a threat on YouTube that the FBI didn’t follow up on. Police were also called to look into questionable actions Cruz was up to at least 30 times prior to the shootings on Tuesday.
It is absolutely imperative that gun laws be re-examined in the days ahead. Sheriff Israel is right to send out his warning: if nothing changes, or if the status quo is fine enough for some candidates, those running for office in his county are going to get a rude awakening.
Beyond Broward County, however, politicians need to commit themselves toward reform across the nation as well. Those who have supported loosening gun laws in the past need to have a moment of introspection, and consider not just the political costs, but also the consequences on people’s lives that will result from doing nothing.