Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried was among a number of Florida lawmakers who called for national gun control measures after two mass shootings this weekend left at least 32 people dead and many more wounded.
Fried and others, including Senate President Bill Galvano and U.S. Represenattive Charlie Crist, took to Twitter Sunday to voice their dissatisfaction with the background checks currently in place.
We are the only nation where murderers and the mentally ill can access weapons of war that can cause mass deaths in seconds.
We must take action to stop the hate-fueled violence.
Otherwise, our country is in denial, and our citizens are paying the price in blood. #MassShootings
— Commissioner Nikki Fried (@NikkiFriedFL) August 4, 2019
In Florida, concealed carry permits for firearms are handled by the agriculture commissioner, not the police like in most other states.
Commissioner Fried joined Sundial to talk about how the recent mass shootings could guide the conversation about guns in Tallahassee.
This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.
WLRN: What do you envision the conversation about assault weapons and guns in general will be in the next session?
Fried: We all have to take a step back. Unfortunately, what I've seen in a lot in these gun debates is everybody has drawn their lines in the sand and that doesn't get a good piece of legislation in place. Maybe it's not the politicians (to drive legislation), it's the people that are being affected by this. It's law enforcement, it's their parents, it's the kids that are going to school everyday in fear, and having these actual conversations of what is happening, what do we need to be doing? Because the politicians, we haven't gotten it right. We haven’t gotten it right since Columbine. Unfortunately mass killings are happening once a week. This is something that we need to take a step back, sit down like adults and come up with some resolutions to all of this, whether it's mental health, whether it’s certain sensible legislation. I don't have the answers but I know that us doing nothing is not the answer.
There is a proposal on the 2020 November ballot in Florida that would put an outright ban on assault weapons. What's your thought on that?
Politicians haven't done anything on this issue and that's why I've also been very vocal on ... [a] citizens' initiative. So I've always been a proponent of citizens having their day at the ballot box whether it's for their elected officials or for citizens' initiatives because that's the only way that we've been able to move our state forward. You know the fact that the past legislature tried to make it harder for these initiatives to be on the ballots really goes to the core of some of the issues that we fight every single day.
You have a say as the agriculture commissioner in the gun permitting process in Florida. Can people be confident that certain individuals can't get permits for assault weapons through loopholes?
I made a promise to the citizens of our state when I ran that the NRA would no longer be part of my administration and that every single person who applies for a concealed weapons permit is going to have a thorough and complete background check. And I can tell you with complete confidence: that is exactly what we are doing. The citizens of our state expect that from their leaders. What is in my power and control is making sure our citizens are safe and protected and that the background checks are done and that's what we've done. We came in and completely revamped the entire program, put new leadership at the top of the division and now all the background checks are done and thorough. But I can guarantee you and I made the promise when I declared [my run] for office. [It] is a promise that I live with every single day and I will not fail.