, the Democratic nominee for Florida governor, for the first time agreed with critics of Scott Israel’s performance concerning the massacre during a nationally televised gubernatorial debate Sunday night.
Previously about whether he has confidence in Israel. Critics argue the Sheriff’s Office didn’t do a good job in handling repeated calls involving the Stoneman Douglas shooter beforehand and didn’t do a good job on the day of the shooting, in which 17 people were killed and 17 wounded.
His critics include , the Republican nominee. He’s said previously, and repeated Sunday night, that from office over his performance.
for governor, a fact that prompted a question to Gillum during an hour-long debate on CNN. He was asked if he agreed with the sheriff’s self-assessment in the days after the shooting that he had “ to this agency.”
“No I don’t,” Gillum said.
But, he added, Broward voters, not a governor, should decide Israel’s fate. And he quickly pivoted away from Israel and toward criticisms of the .
“I think there were failures on many sides, quite frankly. I think Scott Israel is independently elected by the people of Broward County and they are the ones who will have a say about what they think about his job,” Gillum said. The sheriff is in the middle of his second term and isn’t up for re-election until 2020.
“It is an easy tactic to go after Scott Israel rather than actually taking on the folks who are complicit in the kind of rampant violence that we see not only in our schools but in our neighborhoods,” Gillum said. “We deserve a governor who is going to stand up to one of the largest and most powerful lobbies who stand in the way of any form of common sense gun reform.”
Gillum was referring to the National Rifle Association.
DeSantis said the way to keep people safe “is to have accountability for the people that let our communities down, our parents. Sheriff Israel let that community down. The School Board and the schools administrator let the community down. They adopted a PROMISE program which said if a student is getting into trouble we’re going to pretend that he’s not committing offenses.”
DeSantis said the school shooter, whom he referred to as “that individual” should have been arrested before he had a chance to commit the massacre. He’s previously said the School Board should .
PROMISE is the school district program that offers alternatives to students arrested for some misdemeanors. The school district initially said the Parkland shooter was never eligible for the program, but later said he started PROMISE but didn’t complete it.
DeSantis also said the FBI must also be held accountable.
Immediately after the shooting, the a detailed warning call to its public access line by not pursuing the tip.
A caller to the FBI tipline warned about shooter that “he’s going to explode” and was concerned about Cruz “getting into a school and just shooting the place up.” The caller provided details, including Cruz’s name and a description of his guns.
“Nobody has been fired at the FBI. We have a crisis of accountability at all levels of government. I think Israel should have been removed from office by the governor, and I think there needs to be change in both Broward and in the FBI as a result of this failure,” DeSantis said.
Gillum didn’t respond to DeSantis’s assertions about the PROMISE program or the school system’s leadership.
The two also clashed over gun control and school safety legislation implemented in Florida in the aftermath of the massacre.
The law raised the minimum age to buy rifles and shotguns from 18 to 21, extended the previous three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns and banned bump stocks that allow firearms to function like automatic weapons. It also included school security provisions.
DeSantis didn’t directly answer a question about why he has said previously he would have vetoed the law. He said he thinks that one element of the legislation, which raises the legal age to buy firearms in Florida, ultimately will be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional.
And he emphasized his support for more efforts on school security, beyond what were included in the new state law. He said he’s working with Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in the school shooting, on the issue.
“I’m a big supporter of the school security. I think we need to do more,” DeSantis said.
Gillum said the real reason DeSantis, a former congressman from northeast Florida, was against the state legislation is “because he is wholly owned by the NRA. He is not going to stand up to the National Rifle Association. That’s why they are running all these ads against me, because they want the man that they bought. In my case we’re prepared to stand up to the NRA.”
Gillum’s position on the new law didn’t come up during the debate. He’s spoken positively about it, but at a Broward campaign stop last month at which he discussed gun violence, he declined to say whether he would have signed it or vetoed it if he’d been governor at the time.
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