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GOP Rep. Brian Mast On Florida School Shooting


We've got Republican Congressman Brian Mast on the line now. He represents a district just north of Parkland, Fla., but he used to live just five minutes away from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us this morning on what has been a difficult week.

BRIAN MAST: Thank you for having me this morning.

MARTIN: What have you been hearing from local officials in the area where this all happened? What have your conversations been like?

MAST: You know, I haven't had a chance to speak to local officials yet. I do know Sheriff Israel quite well. But being up in D.C. this week, I have had the chance to speak with families and people that I know down there on that level. And I guess maybe surprising to me, or, not surprising, but the biggest thing that I've heard as a message from so many has been school security. And the very simple question is, how do we secure our schools? What are we going to do with school security? And I think probably one of the most striking comments that I had one person say to me was - and, if you know the South Florida area, you know that so many of the neighborhoods here are gated with security guard shacks and roving security and things like that - this somebody that said to me, you know, our neighborhoods have more security than our schools do. And that was something that really struck me, when they said that.

MARTIN: So is that the answer? I mean, you heard our previous conversation with our reporter there in conversation with the students at that school who say they want stronger gun laws.

MAST: It's not the answer. It's a piece of many things that have to happen. We do have to look at who has access to firearms. You know, right now there are systems where the Social Security Administration and Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies, they do report to the FBI if they know of certain instances of mental illness. Now, that's not an end-all deal, but that is a piece of it, who has access. And, as we've seen, the FBI had information that this young adult was potentially thinking about or talking about shooting at a school, and he was still not investigated further. So what is the next step when the FBI is given information like that? What do we do with the biggest pusher of violence? The biggest pusher of violence is, hands down, Hollywood movies, hands down, the video game market. When you look at "Call Of Duty," when you look at movies like "John Wick," the societal impacts of people being desensitized to killing in ways that are different than how somebody that was on the battlefield is desensitized is troubling and very different.

MARTIN: Does it trouble you at all, may I ask, that the shooter used an AR-15 rifle? Do you think it's time for an assault weapons ban?

MAST: Well, AR doesn't stand for assault rifle. And it's a big conversation that we could have. You know, what is it? Is it the caliber of rifle? Is it the caliber of the shotgun? Is it a rifle, is it a pistol? Is it magazine capacity? And I think there is absolutely room to talk about every single bit of this, but it shouldn't be glazed over as though it's just the most simple of conversations.

MARTIN: Congressman Brian Mast of Florida, thank you so much for your time this morning and sharing your thoughts.

MAST: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.