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An Interview with Congressman Ted Deutch

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Congressman Ted Deutch is fighting to keep students safe in school.

Congressman Ted Deutch is fighting to keep students safe in school.

U.S. Congress

U.S. Congress

Congressman Ted Deutch is fighting to keep students safe in school.

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This Valentine’s Day, the South Florida community was faced with a tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.  This sparked a national conversation about school safety and gun control that has been led by survivors of the tragedy who established the #NeverAgain campaign as a much-needed call for gun policy change.  Congressman Ted Deutch, who represents Florida’s 22nd congressional district, which includes both Pine Crest and Stoneman Douglas, has been fighting right alongside these strong students and leaders.  He introduced a bill that bans assault weapons, which is a key policy objective of the #NeverAgain movement.  Additionally, just last week, he strongly argued for tighter gun laws in a bipartisan meeting with President Trump at the White House.  Congressman Deutch’s passion for engaging with our generation and its concerns is not new.  He established a Congressional Youth Cabinet, which includes over ten PC students and many from Stoneman Douglas, that meets throughout the year to discuss various political challenges and potential solutions.  His most recent Congressional Youth Cabinet meeting was held last week, and it was an open forum discussion of gun control, school safety, and student activism.  We at Type One, jointly with PCTV, met with Congressman Deutch after this meeting to hear his thoughts on recent events.  

 

Note: This interview has been modified into written format.  The video interview is available above.

Type One: What aspects of the #NeverAgain movement and the broader efforts of these Stoneman Douglas students have been particularly inspiring to you?

Congressman Deutch:  What’s been most inspiring is the way that these students stepped up in the midst of their grief.  Just after this horrific event that they experienced: the loss of their friends, the loss of teachers, and moved forward with a plan to change the debate and to bring action, and to really make government and elected officials respond to what happened.  That was incredibly inspiring and we’re going to see the impact.  They are really just getting started.  This impact is going to be felt for a long, long time.

 

T1: What should we as Pine Crest students, many of whom cannot vote yet, be doing to support the broader efforts?

Deutch:   You should participate on March 24th.  You should either come to Washington for the March or participate in one of the marches here in South Florida.  You should follow the March on social media.  You should post about the March [March For Our Lives].  You should post about the issue.  Take advantage of the power you have with your phone to let people know how you feel, to share your thoughts, to share videos, to share articles.  That’s how you spread this movement and get other people involved.

 

T1:  What do you think are the next steps for us as a community to help those that are still suffering from this attack?

Deutch: That’s a really good question.  The fact is there are a lot of people who are raising money selling t-shirts, and selling wrist bands, and encouraging people to go to the GoFundMe page, and there are going to be auctions, and there are going to be dinners, and doing anything to help the victims fund I think monetarily will go a long way because everyone is focused on the March.  They are excited about the opportunity for social change, but we have to keep in mind that there are families who are really hurting too, that we have to help take care of.

 

T1: The nature of this tragedy has of course put gun policies in the national spotlight.  So, what policies would you like to see enacted in this area?

Deutch: I think that weapons of war should be taken off our streets, and AR-15s and assault rifles are the civilian versions of military weapons.  The danger in them is the maximum number of people they kill, that’s the problem with them, so we should outlaw assault weapons ­­– that was the case until 2004. We should also ban high-capacity magazines.  No one needs to fire off 30 or 100 shots at a time.  But, in the short term right now, we should require mandatory universal background checks – that has bipartisan support.  We should ban these bump stocks that turn [semi-automatic] guns into machine guns – that has broad support.  We should raise the age to buy any gun to 21.  We need to give law enforcement the tools to take guns from dangerous people.  All of these things can be done right now.

 

T1:  In today’s fairly hostile political environment, what do you expect could realistically go through this Congress?

Deutch: The President had a number of us down to the White House to talk about this issue.  He made very clear his commitment to move forward with a big, comprehensive school safety, gun safety bill that will address background checks, that will address schools, that will address mental health.  All of that we can do now.  The President says he supports it; he now needs to push and drag along those in Congress who think that now isn’t the time, who sadly think that never is there a need to do something.  We’ve seen that we have to take action now.

 

T1:  Similar to how Senator [Chris] Murphy took up gun control as his central issue after the Sandy Hook tragedy, do you expect to see gun control become a major legislative issue for you?

Deutch: It has been a major issue for me. It has been something that I care about, but I can’t remember the number of times I’ve given speeches where I said, “You shouldn’t have to experience a mass shooting in your community, in your district, for it to matter to you personally.  It was true when I said it, but the fact that it has now happened in my district gives me greater resolve and makes me redouble my efforts to not only take action but to really be a leader and bring my colleagues along with me.

 

T1: At the town hall last week, we got to see people with opposing viewpoints finally sit together and have a dialogue.  How do we turn that dialogue into actual actions?

Deutch: I think it was really important to hear differing opinions.  It was really important to hear the representative from the NRA explain their position that, essentially, nothing should change with gun laws, that it is really about everything but guns. I actually think that that will help galvanize support for taking action on gun safety measures.  Those kinds of conversations are helpful.  The fact is wanting to prevent something like this from happening, wanting to ensure that kids who go off to school in the morning will come home safely in the afternoon, that’s not a partisan issue.  Democrats, [and] Republicans alike, the moms and dads who send their kids off to school, they just want their kids to be safe.  That’s how you start the conversation.  You start with the fact that this is really about safe communities and protecting our kids.  Once you do that, it is easier to get everyone on board.

 

Congressman Deutch is an inspiring political figure, who genuinely cares about the needs of his constituents and advocates for their concerns.  He seems determined to see through the policy changes that these Stoneman Douglas activists are demanding.  He will continue to be an advocate for the #NeverAgain movement, fighting to keep students safe in their classrooms now and in the future.  

Our thanks to PCTV, specifically Elliot Reich, for shooting and editing this interview for us.  You can visit this link to see their show on the MSD shooting and its aftermath.  

 

Sources: The Hill, Ted Deutch, Twitter

Photo Source: Wikimedia

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