Pelosi touts gun control in Broward visit with Parkland parents

Democrats may be wary of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in other parts of the country, but she’s welcome in South Florida.

With the midterm elections just weeks away, Parkland students and parents convened Wednesday with Pelosi in Coral Springs to game plan for November. The round table discussion focused on gun control, moderated by U.S. Rep Ted Deutch, was equal parts emotional venting and strategizing.

Pelosi called the activists and parents a “blessing to our country,” and said because of the energy coming out of Parkland, the issue of gun control would top the Democratic Party’s agenda in the House of Representatives if they take control.

“I admire you so much,” she said. “You have the purpose, the generosity of spirit. You have the marchers — you have people who will go out there to make a difference — and you just have a relentless, persistent, dissatisfied approach.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime died in the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, spoke about the urgency of his fight to elect candidates for statewide and federal office who are willing to buck the National Rifle Association. Through his speaking engagements and his foundation Orange Ribbons for Jaime — orange is the color of gun safety in America and it was Jaime’s favorite — Guttenberg and his plight have become synonymous with the Parkland tragedy. He has supported Democrats Andrew Gillum, Ted Deutch, Bill Nelson and Jeremy Ring for statewide office, and has toured the country to shine his spotlight on “gun sense” candidates for Congress.

“I started this seven days after my daughter’s murder,” he said. “And I haven’t stopped since.”

Manuel Oliver, whose 17-year-old son, Joaquin, was killed at Stoneman Douglas, dyed his hair orange prior to the event in solidarity with Guttenberg’s predicted “Orange Wave in November.” He spoke about the importance of reaching out to apathetic members of the voting community by being as hard to ignore as possible.

“Whatever we say now needs to be very strong, very graphic, very direct,” he said. “Coming from a father of a victim, it is important. People will get it.”

Even if Democrats control the House after the November election, neither party is likely to hold a veto-proof majority in the U.S. Senate, meaning substantial gun control legislation is unlikely with Donald Trump in the White House through 2020.

Pelosi is also campaiging with Democrats Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Miami on Wednesday. The visit drew criticism from Republicans because the minority leader was scheduled to appear with California Rep. Barbara Lee, one of the most liberal members of Congress who said Fidel Castro should be mourned when the Cuban dictator died in 2016. Lee is no longer appearing at the public campaign event with Pelosi.

Alex Daugherty, 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty