Kelli Stargel told fellow members of the Florida state Senate that there is only one thing that can stop a school shooting — thoughts and prayers.
The Republican then voted against a bill that would have banned assault weapons.
Stargel’s vote has become a flashpoint in an increasingly heated debate in Florida, where advocates are pushing the normally gun-lax state to adopt stricter gun control measures in the wake of last month’s school shooting that left 17 people dead.
During the debate on an assault weapon ban, Stargel said that stricter gun control measures could not have stopped the massacre, only prayers.
“Thoughts and prayers are really the only thing that’s going to stop the evil from within the individual that is taking up their arms to do this type of massacre,” she said (via the Washington Post).
It is not just Kelli Stargel facing pressure for failing to act on guns. The entire Republican contingent of the Florida state Senate has been criticized for voting down the assault weapon ban, which the Chicago Tribune noted failed by a vote of 20 to 17.
Immediately after the bill was shot down, Republican Senate President Joe Negron asked other senators to take their seats for a moment of silence for the victims of last month’s school shooting.
“Today marks 17 days after those 17 fellow citizens lost their lives,” said Negron, who the report noted voted against the ban. “I would ask us to begin reflecting on their lives and the bravery that was shown on that day.”
The assault weapon ban was not the only bill to fail during the debate. Republicans in the state Senate also turned down a measure that would have allowed parents to opt out of classrooms where a teacher is armed.
During a debate on an assault weapons ban in the Florida Senate, state Sen. Kelli Stargel (R) said she will continue to offer "thoughts and prayers" as a preventative measure to "this kind of a massacre," referring to the Stoneman Douglass School shooting. https://t.co/Nj0Gmz17UQ— Brody Levesque (@BrodyLevesque) March 4, 2018
As the Tampa Bay Times noted, the votes to strike down an assault weapons ban and other gun control measures come as the NRA is increasing its pressure on Florida lawmakers. Republicans, especially those in smaller districts, are often afraid to upset the more active anti-gun control voters by authorizing stricter gun measures, the report noted.
Kelli Stargel’s speech claiming that only “thoughts and prayers” can stop a school shooting caused a stir online, with many sharing video of her words across social media. The controversial remarks have made Stargel the face of gun control opposition to many, highlighting the widening gap between both sides of the debate.