A national campaign on behalf of gun control advocates rolled into Ron DeSantis’s 6th Congressional District, which includes all of Flagler County. On the eve of Independence Day, nearly 1,600 postcard were delivered DeSantis’s office, signed by constituents pledging not to vote for him in the next election unless he supports common-sense gun safety legislation. Members of the local chapter of the non-partisan group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America made the mail drop July 3, including Sheila Zinkerman and Nanci Whitely of Palm Coast. Similar deliveries to elected officials happened in every state.
The week-long campaign was inspired by the passionate plea of Richard Martinez, father of a victim of the May 23 mass shooting in Isla Vista, near the University of California-Santa Barbara campus, in which Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured 13 before killing himself. Each postcard reads “Not One More.” Nationwide, over 625,000 people signed on to support the campaign.
Sheila Zinkerman helped lead the local effort from Palm Coast. What initially attached Zinkerman to the cause was the absence of a “sustained public outcry” after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012. “I sincerely believe there’s a crisis in this country when it comes to gun safety issues,” she says. Ultimately, politicians failed to step up in wake of that “mass slaughter of women and children.” There have been 10 school shootings since Sandy Hook.
(Michael Bloomberg’s group, EveryTown For Gun Safety, claimed there’s been 74 such shootings, seven of them in Florida. But as PolitiFact, the fact-checking arm of the Poynter Institute and the Tampa Bay Times, concluded, “The group’s figure is accurate only if you use a broad definition of “school shooting” that includes such incidents as suicides, accidents and spillover from adjacent criminal activity. The figure has some value in quantifying the proximity of guns to school campuses, but the group makes a significant stretch by tying the statistic so closely to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook. By doing this, the group closely associates the statistic with planned mass shootings targeting students and school staff — a category that, using a more strict definition, accounts for only 10 of the 74 incidents.” The Washington Post detailed the numbers behind the figure here.)
Zinkerman hopes that the postcards will act as a counter-weight to the pressure exerted on politicians by the National Rifle Association successfully to get them to vote against comprehensive–or any–gun legislation. She’s also a member of EveryTown.
Among gun safety measures, Zinkerman’s group advocates for closing background check loopholes, restoring the ban on military-style assault weapons that expired in 2004, and banning high-capacity magazines routinely used in mass shootings.
DeSantis was unable to meet the women at his office. Instead, they met with his district director, Robert Mons, to whom Zinkerman read a personal letter out loud after handing him the postcards. In her letter, Zinkerman spoke about a left-leaning political rally she worked June 28. After approaching a group of middle school girls who were there with a parent, she asked them to choose from a variety of signs, each focusing on a different cause. The girls chose a sign that read Newtown 26, with the name, gender, and ages of all the children and adults murdered by “an individual that should not have had access to an assault weapon with high-capacity rounds,” she says.
Focusing on one of these students, Zinkerman’s letter reads: “Despite her young age, this middle school student knew instinctively that, because of the lack of comprehensive gun safety legislation, the 18 female children and adults that died in Newtown never will have a chance to rally for women’s issues such as equal pay and women’s health. The eight little boys who died will never watch the World Cup with their dads, moms, or siblings. Indeed, the right to dream of becoming a senator or member of Congress no longer exists for any of those who died that day.”
At the meeting with Mons, DeSantis’ district director said that DeSantis has gone on record saying that he’d support comprehensive background checks, which “encouraged” her. When presented with bills containing this provision in the past, Mons said, there were often additional items in the bill that the Congressman would not support. No one from the Congressman’s office responded to FlagerLive’s request for comment.
While Mons was very gracious during and after the meeting, according to Zinkerman, Carolyn Wolfe of St. Augustine, who is not officially affiliated with Moms Demand Action, but was there because she shared their conviction, was not so enthusiastic. Asked if she thought anything positive could come from the meeting, she said, simply, “No.”
“It’s the same standard answer they give for everything when you go and talk to them about climate change,” Wolfe said, “if you go and talk to them about women’s issues—it doesn’t matter what issue you talk to them about—you get the same standard answer: ‘We’ll consider that. We will look into that.’”
Later, Mons wrote to Zinkerman via email: “We have logged the postcards in our system and I have shared the details of our meeting with our legislative team. I have requested some more information on gun safety legislation and will forward to you any information I receive.”
DeSantis, who generally opposes gun-control legislation, gets a 90 percent approval rating from Gun Owners of America, the lobbying group, and a 92 percent rating from the National Rifle Association. When he ran in 2012, he was given the highest pro-gun rating a first time candidate can receive from the NRA.
Why bother then? “Because,” Wolfe says, “you have to. You have to let them know how the rest of the people feel. It may make it better. It may not.” Wolfe stresses that the advocacy group is approaching the issue in a positive light, not in opposition to the Second Amendment. “They’re not about taking your guns away. They’re about being sensible with your guns.”
In 2013, Mark and Jackie Barden, parents of a seven-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary School victim, attended one of DeSantis’ town hall meetings. According to the Daytona News-Journal, it was one that was mostly filled with Republicans and members of the Tea Party. Mark Barden asked DeSantis how he planned to address the issue of gun control. DeSantis said, speaking of the shooter: “I definitely don’t believe he should’ve been allowed to use a gun.” Asked afterwards what he thought of DeSantis’ response, Barden felt he avoided the actual question.
The following is the unedited plea written by Sheila Zinkerman to Ron DeSantis, that accompanied the post-card drop-off:
My Common-Sense Gun Safety Story
I live with my spouse Larry in the Hammock area of Palm Coast, Florida.
I volunteer with a group of Palm Coast concerned citizens who have organized rallies on the last Saturday of every month in Palm Coast. These rallies serve to inform citizens of the serious issues facing our country with the hope that they will then be motivated to go to the polls and vote for representatives who will remedy these issues.
On June 28, 2014 we held our Saturday rally as usual. A woman stopped her van to support our rally and four middle school females exited the van and sat on a bench while their chaperone spoke with a rally attendee. After a period of time, I approached the girls and asked if they would like to “stand with us” and hold a rally sign on an issue they cared about. All four answered with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!” I lead them to a table with rally signs on many topics – including but not limited to – comprehensive immigration reform; equal pay for the ladies; woman’s health; raising the minimum wage to a living wage; student loan interest equality; and common-sense gun safety reform.
After carefully reading all the signs, the first young lady chose her rally sign that highlighted what she cared about most. The sign she chose was the middle one in the attached photo. On the reverse side it read “Remember Newtown 26” with the names, gender, and date of birth of the 26 children and adults that were killed by an individual that should not have had access to an assault weapon with high-capacity magazines.
Despite her young age, this middle school student knew instinctively that, because of the lack of comprehensive gun safety legislation, the 18 female children and adults that died in Newtown never will have a chance to rally for woman’s issue such as equal pay and woman’s health. The eight little boys who died will never watch the World Cup with their dads, moms, or siblings. Indeed, the right to dream of becoming a senator or member of congress no longer exists for any of those who died that day. There have been 74 school shootings since Newtown. A recent study by Everytown for Gun Safety shows that 2 children per week die in unintentional shootings in the United States…2 children per week! Their study determined that the number can be even higher since coroners are not required to sign unintentional gun death certificates as “caused” by homicide.
I am pleading with you not to let that middle schooler down. Indeed, don’t let gun violence victims down who had the right to live in peace. Please support common-sense gun legislation to:
• Reinstate prohibition on high-capacity magazines
• Renew and strengthen the ban on assault weapons
• Eliminate loopholes and require background checks for all gun sales
• Create serious penalties for gun traffickers
• Help schools develop and implement comprehensive emergency management plans
• Get dangerous armor-piercing bullets off the streets
I commend you for the work you do for your constituents. Please have the courage to work for their safety so theycan go to work and take their children to school without fear. Let reasonable and responsible people who respect guns for what they are intended for (killing) have their guns and safely store them. However, keep guns out of the hands of people who are capable of killing people.