Seven months since a gunman killed 17 students and faculty at a Parkland high school, the loved ones of the victims have worked tirelessly to keep the issue of gun violence at the forefront of the political battleground, as Democrats pushing for more restrictive gun laws hope to gain majorities in the Florida Legislature and in Congress
After seeing their gubernatorial pick Philip Levine lose out to Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary, Parkland parents Fred Guttenberg and Manuel and Patricia Oliver announced their support on Friday for incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson in the race against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Nelson appeared with Guttenberg, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch and a host of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at a press conference Friday afternoon just a short drive from the Broward County high school where a former student killed scores of people with a legally purchased assault-style rifle. The Olivers did not attend, but told Guttenberg to announce their support for Nelson.
"It's seven months since the community experienced the most horrific event we can imagine, and seven months later, people in this room and studs and families throughout this comm have taken this horrific tragedy and have done all that they can to throw themselves into the battle to ensure that what happen at Stoneman Douglas doesn't happen at any other school in our country," said Deutch, a Broward County congressman, told a crowd of students, some of whom were members of the March for Our Lives movement, and activists with Moms Demand Action. "I'm just honored to be a part of this battle with all of you."
Nelson, who supports universal background checks and the banning of assault-style rifles and high-capacity weapons magazines, became emotional when addressing the crowd.
“This is an endorsement I wish I never had to have because this endorsement is borne out of tragedy,” a somber Nelson said inside a Marriott hotel conference room as students in attendance lowered their heads. "If you want to change things, you have to get the votes."
Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaimie died in the Parkland shooting, has modified the Democratic push to flip political seats from red to blue, referring instead to an "orange wave" in honor of the official color of gun safety.
He said Gov. Scott's A+ grade from the National Rifle Association made Guttenberg's decision on an endorsement very easy.
"For me, the single biggest voting issue against a political candidate in this election is their relationship with the NRA," Guttenberg said. "Simply put, the NRA is not working on your public safety. They are working on increasing gun sales and nothing else."
In March, Scott signed off on a bill that raised the age limit to purchase a long gun to 21, introduced Risk Protection Orders and implemented a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases.
While Guttenberg did say he appreciated Scott's quick action following the February shooting, he said Scott's relationship with the NRA made him "unfit" to serve in office.