Politics & Government

Outside Washington, Republicans reap praise for gun safety

Adam Wollner, director of McClatchy’s Influencer project, chats with Beyond the Bubble host Alex Roarty, at McClatchy’s Washington Bureau, July 31, 2018.
Adam Wollner, director of McClatchy’s Influencer project, chats with Beyond the Bubble host Alex Roarty, at McClatchy’s Washington Bureau, July 31, 2018. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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WASHINGTON — Months after Florida Republican Rick Scott bucked the powerful firearms lobby to enact ambitious gun safety measures in his state, Florida community leaders say the governor has the public on his side — potentially offering a road map for other Republicans grappling with the issue.

Eighty percent of respondents in McClatchy’s Florida Influencer survey this month said Scott delivered a “good step” on one of the state’s top political priorities, the project’s director, Adam Wollner, told Beyond the Bubble Tuesday. They also said the governor shouldn’t yet move on from the issue, as he engages in a tough race against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, this November.

Both men hope to represent a state that endured one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings. A gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February.

“These influencers, who come from a variety of political stripes, think that all these months later, more needs to be done to tackle the gun issue in Florida,” said Wollner.

(Listen to the last episode of Beyond the Bubble: Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo on reining in the right)

McClatchy’s Influencer project tracks public opinion through panels of community leaders in four states with large McClatchy-owned newspapers.

This month surveys of those panels in both Florida and Missouri, which supported President Donald Trump in 2016, ranked ending violent gun tragedies among their top five political priorities headed into the 2018 midterms.

This year Scott signed off on a plan requiring a three-day waiting period for Floridians seeking to purchase firearms, among other measures to help that cause.

His bill went further than desired by the firearms industry, which doesn’t want gun safety solutions to restrict gun sales. The measure stops short of gun safety groups’ bigger demands, requiring universal background checks.

“There are plenty of conservatives and Republicans in this panel and even they clearly seem to think there is more that could be done,” Wollner said of the Florida survey.

“Only seven percent are saying that no further action is required, and nobody is saying that these laws were too restrictive,” he added.

Elsewhere in the country, Republican leaders are struggling to sell their party on solutions much narrower than those proposed by Scott.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, whose state experienced a tragic shooting at a South Texas high school this year, compiled his own list of gun safety measures with help from experts in a series of roundtables.

Abbott faces tough pushback enacting some of the proposals from fellow Republicans, however, and this week sought to distance himself from one of the key elements of his own plan.

Respondents in Missouri’s Influencer Project, who also rank stopping school tragedies as a top issue, this month laid out solutions they believe could garner support in more conservative territory.

While Missourians were less enthusiastic about raising the age to purchase a rifle, a key feature of Scott’s plan, they largely supported bans on high capacity magazines and some types of assault weapons. They also overwhelmingly favored measures to prevent domestic abusers from purchasing guns.

McClatchy’s Beyond the Bubble show is produced by Jordan-Marie Smith and Davin Coburn. Alex Roarty, a national political correspondent for McClatchy, and Andrea Drusch, Washington correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, recorded this episode at McClatchy’s Washington Bureau, July 31, 2018.