It was a very early morning on Monday as Villagers boarded buses heading to Tallahassee for the Rally in Tally for Gun Reform.
Armed with signs and coffee, they were eager to support the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their call for “Never Again.”
Sponsored by former Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levin and supported by the Villages Democratic Club, the Sumter County Executive Committee, and other organizations in the state, it was billed as a nonpartisan rally.
“I was so upset and disgusted by another mass murder of innocent children. We can’t just wring our hands and send thoughts and prayers and do nothing. I needed to be here to tell our legislators this has to stop,” said Ellen Dugan of the Village of St. James.
Kathy Scott of the Village of Bonnybrook said she emphatically opposes President Trump’s call to arm some school personnel.
She said the idea is “absolutely crazy, untenable and just plain dangerous.”
Her sister-in-law, Linda Scott, of the Village of Sanibel, agreed saying that a handgun is no match for an AR-15.
Another Villages retired teacher, Vicki Johnston, said she checked with former class members who are friends on Facebook and now college students. Not one of them agreed that more guns equate to improved safety in the classroom, or anywhere else.
Mayor Levin welcomed the 3,000-plus crowd, saying the reason for the rally was to make Florida’s school children safe and promised “that we will never let up” adding “that safe schools does not mean arming teachers.”
Those lucky enough to get a seat attended a Senate Rules Committee Meeting on Bill No. SPB 7022, 7024 – the first committee hearing on gun legislation. Others attended the live streaming in an overflow room. The bill contained a series of amendments affecting those with mental health issues, waiting periods, school safety and included discussion about deputizing teachers or other school personnel and the unintended consequences of such action. While bump stocks would be banned in terms of purchase, it would not ban their possession. Banning assault weapons generated the most public testimony, with the majority of those speaking strongly in support of the ban.
Villagers had been hoping to meet with Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake, but he was said to be “unavailable” throughout the day.