Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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.

Hillsborough advocate for better gun laws hits that wall again 04/16/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 7:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 24: A pilgrim reaches the Cruz de Ferro, an important milestone on the journey to Santiago

    Travel

    Day 24: Foncebadon to Molinaseca: 20.3 km, 6 hours. Total for Days 1-24 = 561 km (349 miles)

  2. Sprint is reportedly seeking a merger with Charter, the nation's second-biggest cable company

    Business

    Sprint, the nation's fourth-largest wireless network, is pursuing a merger with the cable company Charter Communications, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

  3. Steve Cishek latest bullpen upgrade for Rays, who now must translate that to wins

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The Rays made another addition to change the look of their bullpen Friday in acquiring veteran side-armer and former closer Steve Cishek from Seattle.

    Reliever Steve Cishek has a 3.15 ERA in 20 games after recovering from offseason hip surgery and a 1.86 ERA since a rocky second outing of the season.
  4. Ex-priest in Boston sex abuse scandal released from prison

    Nation

    BOSTON — A convicted pedophile priest at the center of Boston's Roman Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal settled into an apartment in western Massachusetts on Friday, across the street from a children's dance studio.

    Paul Shanley, 86, has completed a 12-year sentence for the rape of a boy in the 1980s.
  5. Russia seizes 2 U.S. properties and orders embassy to cut staff

    World

    MOSCOW — Russia took its first steps Friday to retaliate against proposed U.S. sanctions for Moscow's suspected meddling in the 2016 election, seizing two U.S. diplomatic properties and ordering the U.S. Embassy to reduce staff by September.