Local officials in West Palm Beach call for tighter gun controls

Updated Feb 20, 2018
News Service of Florida
Crosses and flowers hang on a fence outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Friday, February 16, 2018, in memory of the 17 people killed in a shooting Wednesday. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Hannah Karcinell, a survivor of the shooting last Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, said that in the days following the massacre, her emotions went up and down.

FULL COVERAGE: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

“I just sat in my room and cried or watched TV, or was numb or in shock, and then was getting flashbacks,” she said.

So she invited friends over for comfort. “We had a couple of laughs and would go back and forth, talking about what happened, then shifting the subject to what happened, and then back to having a few laughs.”

But she didn’t vacillate about how the community and country need to react in the days ahead.

“Thoughts and prayers are too late,” she said. “Thoughts and prayers are not going to change anything. Legislators, you need to do something.”

The strain remained on her face, as she spoke at a Community Engagement Forum Tuesday night, hosted by City Commissioner Shanon Materio at the South Olive Community Center to discuss school safety.

The Parkland massacre echoed through West Palm Tuesday as about 30 residents heard from Hannah, fire and police and 211 HelpLine representatives. And the issue rose earlier in the day at city hall, where Mayor Jeri Muoio, Congresswoman Lois Frankel and more than a dozen local officials, candidates, city staffers and activists gathered to urge immediate action by state and federal lawmakers for “common-sense gun laws.”

“Enough is enough,” Muoio told the gathering in the city hall courtyard.

“We’re losing our children. Our children are going to school and we don’t know if they’re going to come home,” she said, noting that 96 Americans die from gunfire each day.

Most Americans are for laws that would keep guns out of the wrong hands, she said. They’re saying, “ban assault weapons, ban bump stocks — is that what they call it?,” she said, referring to equipment used to make semiautomatic weapons fire like automatics.

The public is saying, “This is important to us,” the mayor said.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to draft regulations that would ban bump stocks, which were used by the shooter who fired on a country music concert crowd in Las Vegas last October. Last Friday, Trump visited Broward Health North Hospital, where many victims of the Parkland shooting were treated.

Among those in the West Palm Beach group Tuesday were students Mitchell and Drew Pinsky, along with other fellow student founders of an anti-violence group, 535 Letters for Change. The Pinskys said they’d sent that many letters to members of Congress urging change. They planned to spread their organization to high school and college campuses nationwide, they said.

Frankel encouraged them. “I was part of a student movement that helped stop a war. So you’re on the right track,” said the congresswoman and former mayor of West Palm Beach.

Students are demanding adults not just shed a tear or wring hands but adopt measures that aid conflict resolution and mental heath care and ban assault weapons, she said.

“We don’t want to see another child come home in a body bag,” said Angela Williams, of Mothers Against Murderers Association, founded in memory of her nephew, Torrey Donnell Manuel, shot and killed in 2003.

Muoio, who was joined by the five West Palm Beach commissioners, city administrator, police chief and assistant fire chief, said she planned to bring forward a resolution at the next commission meeting, to ask state and federal legislatures “to take action now.”

Among the other officials at the press conference:

Mayor Myra Koutzen, of Palm Beach Shores; Mayor Thomas Masters, Riviera Beach; Chip Block, Vice Mayor, Jupiter Inlet Colony; Town Commissioner Monica K. Oberting, Manalapan; Councilwoman Jan Rodusky, Royal Palm Beach; Councilwoman Elvadianne Culbertson, South Palm Beach; Town Council Member Julie Araskog, Palm Beach; and Executive Director Richard C. Radcliffe of the Palm Beach County League of Cities.