JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – At a news conference Tuesday in Jacksonville, Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged the five-year mark since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 students and staff members dead.
He called it “an abominable act.”
“Five years ago was one of the worst days this state’s ever had. I was not governor at the time, but it was something that not only reverberated in every corner of our state but really across the country,” DeSantis said. “When I became governor, I got to know many of the families. These are really really difficult losses.”
Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter, 14-year-old daughter Jaime in the massacre, said they will spend Tuesday privately with her at the cemetery as they have every year.
“The past five years has been a series of amazing people and organizations that have helped us to go forward and get through it,” he said, acknowledging the Florida Panthers hockey team as one of those.
Guttenberg, who is now a gun control activist, said with respect to gun control, progress has been made nationally.
“We passed for the first time real gun safety legislation in this country for the first time in 30 years,” Guttenberg said. “I am also aware in the past three elections we have passed more gun legislation to the House and Senate.”
DeSantis was asked about school security reforms in Florida since the mass shooting and indicated he believes the state’s schools are safer now than they were when the gunman was able to walk into the Parkland high school and end so many lives.
“We’ve done over $1 billion to bolster school security. We’ve worked hard to bring accountability to folks who maybe could have done something to prevent this guy from being in this position. ... I took it very seriously to say if there’s never accountability, then these things are more likely to happen again,” DeSantis said. “The thing is, there are things that happen in life you can’t always see or prevent. Sometimes people you wouldn’t expect can do some horrible things. This was an individual -- as soon as this happened, everybody knew in the community who had done it, without getting any firsthand information. It was almost like he was a ticking time bomb. I think we’ve put a lot of effort into that.”
DeSantis also brought up his planned reforms for capital punishment requirements in the wake of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz being spared the death penalty by a divided jury.
“That was a bitter pill when that happened,” DeSantis said. “He admitted it, right? So then they go for the penalty phase, and you kill 17 people -- what other penalty can you get other than the ultimate penalty? ... You have one holdout who can nullify that. That was not the law in Florida for most of the time. The Supreme Court changed it, now our more recent court changed it back. We’re going to say you can’t have one or two holdouts deny justice.”
DeSantis, who was joined by Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner, also announced future legislature to crack down on “a cottage industry of litigation” in Florida.
He pointed to billboards throughout the state advertising attorneys and said when he speaks to those who are looking to either bring business to Florida or expand their business in Florida, one of the frequent concerns they have is about Florida’s litigation climate.
“For a number of years, we were ranked No. 1 in the county for being what they call a ‘judicial hell-hole,’” DeSantis said.
He said he interprets that as the system being used not to benefit those who are harmed but rather the lawyers involved in the system.