Friday, May 25, 2018
Politics

Hillsborough advocate for better gun laws hits that wall again

It was a senseless dispute at a college graduation party, one of those moments gone horribly wrong because someone brought a gun.

"Somebody pushed somebody else," Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller told me this week. "And somebody took out a gun and started shooting. And shot five people."

And so Miller, who was a state legislator when it happened back in 1997, found himself standing in a Tallahassee hospital hearing a doctor say the words "50-50." Those were the odds that his son Les Miller III, Trey as he was called, would survive being shot.

Today, in the wake of gun tragedies that keep happening, Washington leaders are struggling to hammer out reasonable changes, as in a sensible proposal to expand background checks to more buyers to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll showed most Americans (and more than half of gun owners) believe we can make new gun laws without interfering with gun rights.

Still, politicians keep hitting that formidable wall that is the National Rifle Association and its ilk.

It's a wall Miller knows well.

At the graduation party in Tallahassee, young men from the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity from Florida A&M University were celebrating at the Sparta Club & Grill. The owner of the place would later tell a reporter it was a nice group of kids, no alcohol, no drugs.

Trey was at the door when there was a dispute over a $3 cover charge that two young men from Georgia apparently didn't want to pay. One of the Georgia men started shooting. Trey took a bullet just below his heart.

One young man was paralyzed, another was shot in the head. The gunman would go to prison for life on attempted murder charges. All for what?

Miller had long been concerned about the easy availability of guns. Now it was personal, and he wiped away tears as he spoke to reporters about the need for change. But his legislative attempts all hit that wall. The NRA blasted him, he said. Someone told him he was not an American. "I served in the Air Force," he said. "How am I not an American?"

Recently, when the County Commission on which he now sits took up strategies for dealing with violence, Miller asked to look into whether they could create a county ban on assault rifles and large-capacity magazines. (The answer came back: No.) With that came the angry emails, one of which actually said that if he had he spent more time with his son back then, Trey would not have gotten shot.

Like the voices in Washington, Miller keeps saying this is not about some government plan to take guns from law-abiding citizens, but about keeping them out of the hands of felons or the mentally ill. How could anyone be against a measure to try to stop the next tragedy, and the next?

Trey recovered. He was a criminal justice major who wanted to be a cop. But given all that had happened to him, his father wondered if he could even make it through the physical course to get into the police academy. His son called to say he came in second place, after a Marine.

He is a Tampa police detective today, 38 and married with sons of his own.

And his father is still one of those politicians who wants change, who wants to keep something this senseless from happening to another family, only to hit that wall again.

Comments
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18