Legislators in Florida—where a gunman authorities later identified as Nikolas Cruz opened fire on the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida, killing at least 17 last week—have apparently decided that the threat they need to focus on right now is pornography.
Per the Sun Sentinel, as surviving students from the school watched them from the gallery on Tuesday, the Florida House voted down a motion to let legislation that would “ban assault rifles and large capacity magazines” proceed out of committee to in a 36-71 vote. Democratic sponsor Rep. Kionne McGhee argued that the legislation would be essentially dead for the remainder of the legislative session ending March 9th unless the House scheduled it for a hearing.
“It was just so heartbreaking to see how many (voters’) names were up there, especially after it was my school,” 16-year-old Stoneman Douglas junior Sheryl Acquaroli told CNN. “It seemed almost heartless how they immediately pushed the button to say no.”
On the exact same day, that same House voted for legislation that declared pornography a “public health threat,” per the Associated Press:
The resolution states a need for education, research and policy changes to protect Floridians, especially teenagers, from pornography.
Republican Rep. Ross Spano says there is research that finds a connection between pornography use and mental and physical illnesses, forming and maintaining intimate relationships and deviant sexual behavior. Spano is also a candidate for attorney general.
Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith asked Spano why there was an immediate need to pass the resolution and countered that there are more important bills and topics that should be taken up by the Legislature.
While the research on pornography’s impact is mixed, per CNN, most of the professionals who actually work on the subject agree that it’s not a “crisis.” Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health associate professor Eric Schrimshaw told CNN that “Growing evidence also suggests that it is not pornography in general that may be correlated with potential negative outcomes.” That hasn’t stopped conservatives, especially in states with large evangelical populations like Utah, from increasingly reframing their own social concerns about pornography as a public health crisis as of late whether or not medical professionals are actually on board.
Meanwhile, there is an awful lot of research indicating that stricter gun laws are correlated with a reduction in gun homicides, while looser gun laws are correlated with more gun homicides. Research on the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994 is mixed—if anything, the evidence suggests that the real problem was the sheer number of grandfathered weapons exempt from the ban as well as the widespread availability of modern semi-automatic firearms in general—but since its expiration in 2004, the L.A. Times writes, the “consequence has been increased use of these weapons in crimes of all sorts ever since.”
Per the L.A. Times, Christopher S. Koper and other researchers at George Mason University say the evidence is clear the expiration of the ban resulted in more people spraying bullets in general:
“There’s a tendency to focus on mass shootings,” Koper told me. “I’ve tried to draw attention to some of the broader issues beyond mass shootings and at the use of these guns and magazines in crime generally. You can have a lot of additional high-volume gunfire incidents that don’t result in mass shootings — you might have incidents where more than 10 shots are fired but maybe have only one or two victims who are actually shot. But that’s still a public policy concern.”
... “By forcing offenders to substitute other weapons, you’re essentially forcing them to use weapons that are less deadly.”
In any case, the Centers for Disease Control is forbidden to research gun violence due to an National Rifle Association-backed congressional ban. In Florida, legislators have sent a similar signal about selectively listening to the evidence (and the boos of people who, just last week, survived a massacre). While some Florida legislators are considering a number of far weaker half-measures, per the Miami Herald, the conservative media has already begun its headache-inducing habit of screaming about how the real issue is anything other than guns in the hopes they can distract people long enough to blunt any real progress.
They are not even interested in the discussion.
“Basically, what they have determined is that these are the Republican priorities in 2018,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo-Smith, who has been trying to an assault weapons ban passed in the state for two years, told the Independent. “Wasting our time with debate and legislation that declares porn as a health threat, meanwhile we can’t even get a single debate, vote, or hearing on anything related to assault weapons. That’s really sad.”