Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) Talks Gun Reform and 2018

February 22, 2018

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) tells Cheddar how the state is coping with the most recent mass shooting in Parkland, FL. She speculates about how this tragedy will influence the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential election.

Wasserman Schultz tells us why she does not support the idea of arming teachers with weapons as a means of preventing a tragedy like the Parkland school shooting. President Trump brought up this idea at a listening session with shooting survivors held at the White House.

Wasserman Schultz expresses her desire to put partisanship aside and pass a ban on assault weapons. Additionally, she supports age restrictions that would prohibit an 18-year-old from getting a weapon. Although she is amazed at the eloquence of the students speaking out on gun control, she remains skeptical about whether meaningful gun reform will ever happen under the current administration.


Brad: Now the gun control debate has obviously come to the forefront after the latest shooting in Parkland. How does this play into this year's midterm elections and then also for 2020?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Well, I mean first and foremost, our community is really utilizing our grief as, uh, as a tool to be able to make sure that we can have not one more school, not one more community suffer a, a mass shooting tragedy like we've been through here. Um, and Brad, you may remember, we've actually been through three mass shootings here in Florida at Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood International Airport, uh, just a year ago. We had a, uh, you know, five people killed and 13 people injured by a mass shooter, uh, in our airport. So, uh, unfortunately, Florida has been through this multiple times and each time with an AR-15, uh, an automatic weapon, which we absolutely, er, at the top of, uh, of any agenda on how I would address these mass shootings, we need to ban weapons of war from the civilian population.

Brad: Let's-

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Uh, that- that's step one.

Brad: Let- let's talk about that because President Trump held a listening session last night for, er, er, people who have, have suffered tragedies, uh, of some of these mass shootings including people from Parkland. Uh, one solution that he had though was to arm teachers, uh, and arm some teachers in schools. What are your thoughts around that?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Well, I know the thoughts of our community and I, I share those thoughts. Uh, we had a huge town hall last night, 7,000 people. Uh, the overwhelming feeling was opposition, strong opposition to arming teachers to creating, uh, to turning our schools into, er, fortresses that, uh, that are armed with perimeters of weapons. Er, teachers go into education to, to teach our students to raise the next generation of Americans to, uh, to, to be able to, you know, keep America the great country that she's always been, not to, to have to, er, be trained on how to fire a weapon and then, I mean think about the practicality of that. These, these mass shootings happened in seconds. I mean, er, er, what, what the president- I, I listened to what he said. You know they would- having weapons locked away. I mean, should a teacher be hurt? Should, should this teacher be trying to get her kids to safety or should they be trying to unlock their weapon, load it and then try to open fire on a shooter? That- that's just- that is a crazy irresponsible solution. What we need to do is come together and put partisanship aside and shun the NRA and, and finally, address this multi- multi-part problem, which not only includes banning assault weapons but includes making sure an 18-year-old can't get a, ah, any weapon, never mind a weapon of war.

MALE_1: Right. And a "solution" like this would essentially put money back in the hands of all of the gun makers, the gun companies, the entire industry, the NRA and so that beckons the question. The broader question is, will we see change under this administration considering we are looking at a majority Republican House, Senate, and of course, Hou- uh, the White House right now? Er, er, so can, can we see that change that we need given their affiliation to the NRA?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: You know, based on what I've been through with all of these shootings during the time I've been in Congress, ah, I'm skeptical. I've word that so many kids who have, er, who have been so eloquent and so, so poignant and poised particularly last night and throughout this week have said, you know, talk is cheap. Don't give me words. Show me action. So when we go back to Washington next week, I know that, uh, Ted Deutch, myself, my, uh, my Florida and other Democratic colleagues are going to hold our colleagues' feet to the fire, hold the Republican majorities' feet to the fire and, and frankly, you know, brings me to answer your original question, which is what does this mean for the upcoming elections and the midterms, and then in 2020? I think this is an issue that, particularly in Florida, uh, er, elections are going to turn on. I think it is. People are going to be hard pressed, uh, running for office this year, who are not for real solutions that include making sure we get weapons of war out of the hands of civilians and make it less likely that these tragedies can happen through mass shootings.

Brad: Congressman, ma'am.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: We can't prevent them all, you know, but, but we can certainly put obstacles in the path and make sure that they're far less likely.

Brad: Congressman Wayne LaPierre, the Executive Vice President of the NRA, the National Rifle Association, is right now on stage at CPAC.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Yeah.

Brad: What do you want him to hear? What message do you have for him?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Uh, you know, honestly, I, I, I wish he would listen to the overwhelming majority of NRA members, who believed that we should enhance background checks, uh, who believe that we should at least, which is spokesperson last night at a town hall meeting wouldn't even say, say they support raising the, uh, the age of who can buy a weapon from 18 to 21. That we, uh, that we should talk about how we can at least restrict access. I support a ban on assault weapons, but at least make it less likely or more difficult to get weapons, as our Sheriff Scott Israel said, but they're not for any of that. They, they, uh, they do spend blood money, getting candidates elected to Congress who will do their bidding. And so voters need to make sure that across this country and NRA members need to make sure that we get out and if we can't get these kinds of laws passed to protect our people, then we need to elect, elect people across this country who will.

MALE_1: Uh, uh, just quickly, I wanna get, uh, your thoughts on protection for the schools as well. I mean when we come back to, um, the schools who are at the heart of this conversation, students being safe as well and then, of course, there is the broader gun debate conversation as well. Um, what can immediately be done in the schools? Uh, I mean arming teachers, we, we discussed that a moment ago and that doesn't seem like it's something that's gonna get off the ground extremely quickly. But for schools right now, we're looking at this in the wake of this tragedy, what can immediately within the next days and weeks be put into place?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Well, we do need to make sure that we have a more robust School Resource Officer Program. I mean we, we don't- I mean we, we have very large high schools in, uh, in, in Florida in particular. In, in my district, we have the second largest high school in the country, 4,400 kids, 1,100 hundred kids in each reg- in each class. Stoneman Douglas is close to that, uh, so we need to make sure that we have the resource officers that are available. They, they serve multiple purposes but certainly, uh, one is to make sure we can keep the school population safe. Uh, we also need to make sure that we look at the entrances and having more single point entries. There are too many access points for our schools in, in our community and across the country. Stoneman Douglas had a single entry access point and it did- and it didn't help. So when, when it come- I, I worked on safety legislation for my whole career and what keeping people safe is about legislatively is putting obstacles in the path of people who would do others harm and make it less likely that, uh, that, that people can get injured, hurt, or killed and, uh, and, and so those are the kinds of things that we need to do to harden campuses. People are talking about metal detectors. I think if you didn't have a single entry point, putting metal detectors on, uh, at every entrance would be, would be expensive.

MALE_1: Um- um.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Um, I'm not sure that that's a, a solution but, er, we, we have a School Safety Act that Congressman Deutsch has introduced along with, uh, I believe Senator Hatch is gonna introduce it next week in the Senate. We have to sit down, come together and come up with a multipronged approach that is not one size fits all to making sure that our schools can be safe and that parents and teachers and students are not panic stricken when they walk in the school door.

Brad: Uh, Representative Schultz, very briefly you were chair, of course, of of the DNC. Uh, there's clearly energy in, uh, in the gun reform movement right now. How do Democrats harness the energy that's right, right now that what's happening right now, the movement right now? How do they harness that to bring that energy to the midterm elections in November?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Well, er, er, this is not about partisanship. This is about keeping our children and our communities safe so the way we harness it is by we make- but I, I know today, I'm meeting with, uh, with, with high school leaders in my own district in the high schools across this- our community because all our kids have been affected by this and they want- that they want us to, to teach them how they can make a difference. We need to make sure that we show people how they can get involved in the political process, not only showing up to town hall meetings but getting involved in campaigns knocking on doors making phone calls. We have so many people who really want to know how they can get involved and make sure that we elect leaders who are going to listen to them, truly listen and not just listen to their big money contributors, uh, like the NRA and, and giant corporations who really have a stranglehold on our like- on our elections, uh, particularly on the Republican side.

MALE_1: All right. And we'll continue to track all the movements here, of course. Thank you so much for joining us here today, Congresswoman. That's Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Thanks again.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Thank you.