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Recent shootings add fuel to gun control debate fire

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As Florida makes it more convenient for people to apply, or re-apply for concealed weapons licenses, which some state leaders are calling it smart and efficient, the national conversation continues about gun laws after two notable recent shootings, one of which was caught on live TV.

Chris Colley, a man who wasn't supposed to have guns, stands accused of shooting his estranged wife and her best friend last week in a St. Augustine domestic violence case.

Then, on the top of the minds in most newsrooms across America are last week's murders of two young journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, during a live broadcast.

While the parents of Parker said they have committed to changing gun laws, Second Amendment advocates believe gun control only hurts people following the laws.

"You always think there's a tipping point," Andy Parker, Alison Parker's father, said. "I think this time it's going to be different."

Parker and Ward were killed last Wednesday by Vester Flanagan, who used to work at their Virginia TV station.

Flanagan was able to legally purchase a firearm, despite his history of angry outbursts and behavioral problems.

Parker's parents are issuing a call for what they call common sense gun laws to prevent mentally disturbed people from buying guns and they're not taking no for an answer.

"If you are a parent, if you're a mother, if you have children, can you look your child in the eye and say, ‘We are willing to allow you to be collateral damage in order to keep what some people perceive as their constitutional right,'" Barbara Parker, Alison Parker's mother, said.

Firearms Law Attorney Cord Byrd is one of the proponents of that constitutional right and points to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's new program, partnering with tax collectors around the state to expand concealed weapons licensing services, calling it a good move.

"As with every tragedy our prayers are with the family. But in this situation last week with this reporter, there's not a gun law that could be written that would have prevented that tragedy," Byrd said.

Putnam said it provides services demanded by citizens and makes financial sense. When it comes to concealed weapons licenses Florida has more than any other state, 1.4 million, but Putnam and Byrd said that's not a reason for concern in their minds.

READ: Applying for concealed weapon easier in Fla.

"As I said, the state of Florida has the highest number of active concealed weapons licenses issued in the nation, and our crime rate is at a four and a half decade low, " Putnam said.

That's a sentiment Byrd takes one step further.

"We should take comfort in the fact that we have so many people with concealed weapons permits because they're the law abiding citizens and the criminal, by definition, is going to break the law and commit a crime and not follow the law, no matter how many gun laws we write," Byrd said.

St. Johns and Nassau Counties are among the 13 tax collector offices now processing concealed weapons license applications and renewals.

Putnam expects a surge of renewals in the state and thinks the partnerships are an efficient way to handle that demand.

Meanwhile, Alison Parker's parents said they will change gun laws in the nation and they are not taking "no" for an answer.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.