Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., spoke at the Elliott School of International Affairs Thursday about his experience with gun control legislation in the aftermath of a school shooting earlier this year.
Deutch represents Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, which includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – the site of a mass shooting that resulted in the deaths of 14 students and three adults in February. During the event, Deutch discussed keeping the issue of gun control on the forefront of political discourse, working across the aisle to pass gun control legislation and encouraging youth participation in politics.
“All of you have grown up since Columbine, in an active shooter world, where every year in school you are trained for active shooters, and yet it happens again and again and again,” Deutch said. “Lives are taken again and again, that cannot be accepted as a norm.”
At the event – which was organized by Colonials Demand Action GW, The Roosevelt Institute at GW and the GW College Democrats – Deutch said the students in Parkland catalyzed change nationwide. The mass of students coming together and speaking out about gun violence inspired others to do the same, he said.
Many of the people in the Parkland community joined with the student survivors to ensure what happened in their community “never has to happen anywhere else,” he said.
Deutch said achieving legislative solutions in Congress requires first recognizing similarities and then working with the other side of the aisle to pass incremental reform.
“We’re all in the same boat. We all want to keep our kids safe. We want to keep our community safe. Let’s find ways to do it. Maybe you’re not willing to do all of them now. Let’s try the ones we can do,” he said, referring to gun control measures.
Deutch said he has urged his fellow congressmen to find their consciences on the issue of gun violence and join him in passing “common sense” legislation.
“You shouldn’t have to have a mass shooting take place in your district for you to care about this issue as a member of Congress,” he said.
Deutch said he’s co-sponsored some of the legislative solutions that have a good chance of passing through Congress, like a bill that gives money to educators and schools and a bill that would empower the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
In order to effect change at the federal level, Deutch said younger voters need to turn out in the 2018 midterm elections. At an event, Deutch said a high school student told him that only one in five first-time voters actually cast a ballot.
“He paused and he said, ‘Imagine if we make that four out of five. Well, if you make that two out of five, you’re going to change the composition of Congress and you’re going to ensure that there’s a Congress as committed to making our communities safe as you are,’” Deutch said, recounting the conversation.
Deutch concluded the event by urging students to let their lawmakers know that they care about gun control legislation just as much as gun manufacturers care about their profits. With that – they would keep the Parkland students’ movement in the forefront of politics, he said.
“If this continues to be a movement, then we will succeed in passing common sense gun legislation,” he said.