Former House Speaker Allan Bense said in an email to the Herald/Times Tuesday that although he has been a devoted supporter of the National Rifle Association, "a very difficult question to answer, for me, is why any civilian should be allowed to own an AR-15 or military-style semi-automatic weapon."
His conclusion: "at the very least, we should all be able to agree that raising the age to 21 for legal possession of a semi-automatic rifle makes sense.
Bense, a Panama City Republican who was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives from 2004 to 2006, agreed to have the email published. "Yes, it's time'' he said.
Here it is:
Hi Mary Ellen --
I hope all is well with you. I know it must be very difficult reporting the news out of Broward County recently. However, it is important that we all know what happened and that our lawmakers have all the facts with which to make some very important decisions over the next few weeks. I’m glad you and your colleagues are getting that truth out.
As you know, I live and represented the most " pro-gun” part of Florida and I’ve always been an ardent supporter of protecting our individual liberties and freedoms, including our Second Amendment rights. In fact, as you may recall, I sponsored a major bill that protected gun manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits. My support for gun owners and their rights hasn’t changed, but I do believe there are some actions we must take immediately in order to keep Floridians as safe as possible."
I like some of the options being discussed by leaders like Senator Rubio and former Governor Bush. Allowing family members and law enforcement to raise a red flag when someone shows warning signs of violence makes a lot of sense and would empower families to keep guns away from dangerous individuals. Obviously, improving background checks and improved funding for our mental health system are a must - immediately. Also, giving our mental health professionals more leeway to cooperate with law enforcement proactively, rather than reactively makes a lot of sense.
A very difficult question to answer, for me, is why any civilian should be allowed to own an AR-15 or military-style semi-automatic weapon. I am sure there are many arguments on both sides, which should be debated, but I think, at the very least, we should all be able to agree that raising the age to 21 for legal possession of a semi-automatic rifle makes sense. It is the law for handguns, and should be the law for semi-automatic rifles as well, in my opinion.
In the aftermath of the horrific events in Parkland, all options should be on the table and, over the next few weeks of session, our lawmakers must have a full and complete discussion about how we can best keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Most importantly, they must take action - every action upon which they can reach a consensus - our safety, and our children’s safety, is just too important for any more delay.