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Meet the Florida congressman who’s bringing VP Harris to the scene of one of the country’s worst tragedies

By Michael Jones

Jared Moskowitz is like any alum who’s proud of their high school alma mater.

But the difference between the first-term Democratic Florida congressman and most of us is that our schools aren’t synonymous with the gun violence epidemic.

“No one knew where Parkland was—small town in Florida, lowest crime of any city in Florida,” he told me this week. “But what are we known for now? We’re known for the nation’s largest high school mass shooting.”

Moskowitz is referring to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where in 2018 a former student killed 17 people and injured 17 others with an AR-15-style weapon in six minutes. And since arriving in Washington last year, the Stoneman Douglas graduate has led bipartisan visits to the school with members of Congress and Biden cabinet officials, including the number-two House Democrat Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

This Saturday, he’ll welcome the highest profile public official to the site: Vice President Kamala Harris.

Moskowitz, who represented the Parkland area in the state legislature and whose congressional district includes the Miami suburb, said his office extended an invitation to the vice president after President Joe Biden last September established the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which Harris oversees.

“We’re happy to host her and I think what the vice president and the office is going to learn, because this is the only sort of situation where it exists, is the things that Florida has done since the largest mass shooting at a high school,” he told me. “And so it’s going to be very emotional. The parents are going to show her where their kids died, families are going to show where their husband passed away.”

Inside Stoneman Douglas remains a time capsule from six years ago: There are still blood stains on the floor, bullet holes in the walls, and homework left behind by students who fled to safety during the tragedy. The building where the shooting occurred has been permanently closed and is to be demolished and replaced by a memorial this year. The old campus location will have a new building in 2026.

Unfortunately, the Parkland families won’t be the first Harris has grieved with since being sworn in as vice president. From Monterey Park, Calif. to Highland Park, Ill. to Buffalo, N.Y. to Nashville, Tenn., she has traveled the country to comfort communities directly impacted by gun violence across the nation.

She has used her bully pulpit to press Congress to advance meaningful federal reforms, including a renewal of the assault weapons ban, tougher red-flag laws, and background checks for all gun sales. Last December, she convened nearly 100 state legislators from 39 states to launch an initiative to provide states with additional tools and support to advance common-sense gun safety initiatives and save lives in communities across the country. Months before that, Harris welcomed Quavo from the hip-hop group Migos to the White House to discuss advancing the administration’s gun safety agenda. Last fall, she called on the 15,000 students who attended stops on her nationwide college tour to remain at the forefront of the movement to end gun violence.

The vice president’s Parkland visit comes as guns rank as the leading cause of death for kids in America. There have been more mass shootings in 2024 than there have been days in the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a data collection and research group. Earlier this month, the gun safety movement suffered a major defeat after congressional Republicans secured a rider in a package of funding bills that prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from reporting veterans unable to manage their benefits to the Justice Department for a background check without approval from a judge. Under previous law, these veterans were prohibited from purchasing guns and ammunition.

But the movement has seen modest progress as well.

It’s been almost two years since Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first meaningful federal gun safety legislation in 30 years. The act enhanced background checks for people under 21, invested in mental health services, incentivized state red-flag laws, and closed the boyfriend loophole.

Maxwell Frost, the first member of Generation Z elected to Congress who ran for Congress after surviving a gun violence incident and grieving the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, pointed to the Gun Violence Prevention office that he proposed and Harris now leads as proof that more gains against the gun lobby are possible.

Frost told me his work isn’t about going door to door and taking people’s guns, violating their Second Amendment rights, or politicizing the crisis. Instead, it’s about speaking to the hearts and minds of reasonable folks who are willing to put common-sense reforms above partisanship.

“Bullets don’t care who you voted for last year,” Frost said.

As a member of the Florida legislature in 2018, Moskowitz led the passage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act—the most comprehensive gun violence prevention, school safety, and mental health bill ever passed in the state. 

The legislation raised the age to buy guns from 18 to 21, established a three-day waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm, empowered law enforcement to take away firearms from people considered too dangerous to possess them responsibly, and provided funding for mental health counselors and school resource officers in every high school.

Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones (D) called the speech Moskowitz delivered after the Parkland shooting one of the most moving speeches he has ever heard in his legislative career.

“Jared, a Democrat in a Republican majority, was able to help pass one of the most monumental pieces of legislation to ensure we had safety in our schools and that our children and teachers were protected,” Jones, with whom I share no relation, added. “My friend was able to do it then, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will build that same bridge and do it in Washington, DC.”

And if he has his say, it won’t take another three decades to make it happen.

“Florida—the red state led by Ron DeSantis, a Republican legislature, Republican cabinet, Donald Trump’s home—passed meaningful gun violence prevention school safety measures after Parkland. So if we can do it there, we can do it here.”

Michael Jones is an independent Capitol Hill correspondent and contributor for COURIER. He is the author of Once Upon a Hill, a newsletter about Congressional politics.

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