ORLANDO, Fla (WOFL FOX 35) - Appalled by the ease with which an individual once under the scrutiny of the FBI could purchase a firearm and carry out the worst mass killing in the nation, state Senator Darren Soto on Wednesday joined with other lawmakers to propose a tactical measure to prevent future tragedies.
Accompanied by Senator Geraldine Thompson and Reps. John Cortes and Randolph Bracy, Senator Soto also called on the Florida legislative leadership to convene a special session to immediately pass the emergency proposal. If the request is rejected, the lawmakers are asking that the legislature be polled.
"As we stand here today, there is nothing to stop another would-be terrorist released from the FBI's watch list from walking into a gun shop and carrying out an attack on innocent victims," said Senator Soto. "But we don't need to wait for the federal government to close a glaring loophole in the safety net. We have that power to close it ourselves."
"While many focus on terrorism in the Orlando shootings, they lose focus on the Charleston shootings about a year ago in South Carolina. They lose focus on Sandy Hook and far too many other places where massacres have occurred," added Sen. Thompson. "The common denominator is ready access to weapons needed for mass murders. We must address that."
If passed by the Legislature, anyone suspected of terrorist ties or activity on a federal watch list or no-fly list would immediately be prohibited from purchasing firearms in Florida. If released from that list, a purchase would only be allowed once that individual had cleared an extensive background check conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
"As effective as federal agencies might be at thwarting threats to our nation, they cannot monitor all suspect people at all times," said Sen. Soto. "FDLE is here, it has the network and ties to local law enforcement, and it has its ear to the ground throughout the state. Their involvement would better assure the critical scrutiny which was sorely missing in the case of Omar Mateen."
According to numerous reports, Mateen, a radicalized American who gunned down scores of unsuspecting people at the gay nightclub "Pulse" in Orlando on Sunday, had been the subject of investigations by the FBI in 2013 and 2014. Despite the federal involvement, no flags were raised when he sought to purchase semi-automatic weapons at a local gun store prior to the attack, because the investigations had been closed. Mateen used at least one of the weapons in his massive killing spree, wounding 53 others, including one of the responding police officers.