GOP Sen. Scott says laws to combat mass shootings should focus on mental illness

"We've got to figure out how we get guns away from mentally ill people who want to harm others or themselves," Scott said.

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By Ben Kamisar

WASHINGTON — Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., Sunday called on Congress to use Florida’s response to the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland as a model to address gun violence.

A day after a gunman in West Texas killed at least seven people, Scott defended the Second Amendment right to bear arms while arguing that the nation needs to take more steps to “focus on mental illness.” Saturday's shooting was the latest in a series of mass killings across the country that killed 51 people in the month of August, according to statistics compiled by the New York Times.

“I’ve talked to the president, the White House, I’ve talked to Mitch McConnell and others. I think they ought to look at what we did in Florida after Parkland,” Scott said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

"We sat down with law enforcement, the mental health counselors, and educators and said, 'what would really work?' And so we passed historic legislation within three weeks."

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"We've got to figure out how we get guns away from mentally ill people who want to harm others or themselves," Scott said.

Last year's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland served as a watershed moment on gun violence activism, as surviving teenagers and their families promoted reforms they believe could help prevent future mass shootings.

In the wake of that shooting, Florida passed a measure that included, among other provisions, raising the legal age for firearm purchases to 21 years old, expanding a waiting period for gun purchases and allowing for some, trained school employees to be armed.

The legislation also included a ‘red flag law,’ which lets law enforcement ask a court to allow them to temporarily seize firearms from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

During his interview, Scott focused on the ‘red flag’ provision and argued that there are “too many people that have mental illness” who “have access to weapons, and they shouldn’t.”

Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro brushed aside Scott's comments as giving lip service to the issue and accused President Trump of lying to the American people after mass shootings.

"This kind of inaction and the talk we heard today from, I think that was Sen. Rick Scott, it’s the same old thing. It’s happy talk — and this promise of: 'We are going to do something, we’re going to look at it,' but they never actually do it," Castro said on "Meet the Press."

"The biggest lies that the president has told include that he would do something about universal background checks.”

Trump has floated supporting an expansion of background checks during a handful of recent mass shootings, but subsequently walked that support back.