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Federal and local proposals for gun control taking place

Gun shop owners navigate the gun debate
Posted: 10:18 PM, Feb 27, 2018
Updated: 2018-02-28 03:18:33Z

Treasure coast congressman Brian Mast, in a break from his own party and the National Rifle Association, has a plan for gun control.

First on the agenda: A call for a temporary ban on AR-15s, the same weapon used in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 people dead two weeks ago in Parkland.

During an interview with "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Mast said a temporary ban could be fashioned like President Trump's travel ban. 

"Let's put a pause right now," he said. "It made sense in the case of terrorists coming into this country.  I think it should make sense in looking at guns."

In an interview with WPTV on Tuesday, Mast said his plan falls alongside other discussions taking place in Washington right now, including school security, arming teachers, addressing mental illness, gun ownership age limits. 

"Let's not let those conversations preclude us from doing something right now," he said. "Here is the most common thread that I have heard from every Republican, every Democrat, every Independent --and that is that no one has the confidence right now in the FBI to weed out the next Nicolas Cruz. Let's do the right thing and have a pause on the future purchase of these firearms right now while we have this much more broad conversation."

Mast says he is getting support behind the scenes from his peers in Washington.

"I'm the only one out there that's pushing this conversation in this kind of way," he said. "But I have had a lot of lawmakers come up to me and whisper in my ear, 'you're doing the right thing.' So there's absolutely a number lawmakers that are engaging me in that kind of way and then there's others who aren't on board whatsoever."

Meantime, some local leaders are making moves on their own. St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara is asking local gun dealers to refuse the sale of semi-automatic weapons to people under 21 .

"How could an 18 year old buy an assault rifle?” Sheriff Mascara said in a press conference on Monday. "

Mascara's actions are less broad than Mast's proposal, but the congressman said he applauds Sheriff Mascara for taking an active effort.

"This is the beauty of the United States of America and a system that we have here that doesn't want the federal government to be the end all be all. We have 50 states with 50 options to find the right solutions for things," he said.

Mark's Guns in Port St. Lucie is one of the 84 federal firearms licensed gun dealers across the county to receive the letter from the sheriff, which was mailed out on Wednesday. The request also applies to those who only repair and build guns and may not necessarily sell them.

Owner Mark Cersosimo says he and a few gun dealers have already made the choice not to sell to people under 21, with more jumping on bandwagon. We called other gun shops in the area and learned that many were on board with Mascara's request.

"A few days after the shooting I just decided, I don't want to put an AR-15 in the hands of someone under 21," he said.

But he has some reservations about Congressman Mast's plan and said lawmakers should focus on other issues as well.

"Everybody's rushing to the quick band-aid," he said. "Brian, if you're trying to do something, why don't you take all this time and energy and create a database between mental health care and law enforcement. Why don't you make it so that there's another element that that database with mental health is crosschecked as well as FBI and other databases when you're checking someone's background. That seems like a no-brainer."

He also said it will take more than just banning specific weapons, adding that his duty as a gun dealer is to promote safe and responsible gun ownership.

"Here's a gun right here," he said, pointing to one on the wall of his shop. "This gun was made 45 years ago. It's a .30-06. It's got a 10-round magazine. I'd rather stand up to 10 AR-15s than that thing any day of the week."

When it comes to denying sales to those under 21, Cersosimo says he's not worried about any potential lawsuits because ATF gives gun dealers that freedom.

"If you don't want sell a gun to someone, it could just be a feeling you have. And they gotta go," he said. "There's no risk in turning down a sale. You can't be sued for it."

He also suggests that lawmakers consider creating a program allowing parents to co-sign for a gun for those under 21, which would require mental health, background checks, and taking a gun safety course.

"Like cosigning for a loan, you come in and cosign for the person taking responsibility for the gun," he said.

Mental health is another big issue Cersosimo said needs to be addressed properly in the state.

"The state of Florida is number 50 in mental healthcare. They slashed the budget for this years ago," he said. "Governor Scott, I call upon you to help the state recreate this funding, bring mental health back where it needs to be in this state."

Still, Mast said he's moving forward this week on his plan to address the great gun debate. He's already presented this plan to fellow Republicans in meetings.

"I've spoke with a couple of different groups already today. One small meeting of about 20 different representatives who were specifically sitting there to have the conversation about this gun, mental illness and mass casualty debate," he said. "Not one more school shooting, not one more death in a school..That should be our commitment."

Congressman Mast says he hopes to speak directly with President Donald Trump about his plan sometime this week.

"There are very real fears on both sides of this issue. Everyone wants to see their children safe," he said. "I don't think I can find anybody here in Congress or the senate or any of our state legislatures that don't want that to occur. But you have to be courageous to get to that point. You have to be willing to push the conversation to get to that point."