Florida Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson is pushing for gun control legislation to be included in Senate President Bill Galvano’s call for lawmakers to find ways to “better understand the various factors involved in mass shootings,” including “white nationalism,” during the 2020 legislative session.
“For far too long, both in Florida and nationwide, common-sense gun reforms have been thwarted by the gun lobby,” Gibson wrote in a letter to Galvano. “They are intent on maintaining the status quo, no matter the cost in lives, no matter the families they help to destroy. Their version of solutions has been and continues to be more guns, and Florida is awash in them.”
In a statement released late Wednesday afternoon, the Jacksonville Democrat identified four bills she wants the Republican-controlled Legislature to allow to be heard. They are:
— Sen. Linda Stewart’s, D-Orlando, proposal to prohibit the sale of three specific groups of “assault weapons” — Sig Sauers, AR-15s, AK-47s — and restrict magazine capacities.
Stewart’s bill, similar to “assault weapon” ban bills she’s filed the last three sessions, would require “all assault weapons or high capacity magazines possessed prior to Oct. 1, 2020, be accompanied with a certificate of possession.”
As of Wednesday night, it had not been formally posted or assigned a number.
— Senate Bill 114, sponsored by Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, a “red flag” law that would add parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings and guardians to the list of individuals able to request a risk protection order from a judge to require law enforcement temporarily remove firearms from an individual “the petitioner has reason to believe poses a threat to themselves or others.”
— SB 94, sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, which would require background checks for all firearms transactions, including on the internet.
— Another background check bill to be sponsored by Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, requiring “all private sales or transfers of firearms be facilitated by a licensed firearms dealer.”
Farmer’s bill had not been issued a number for formally posted by Wednesday night.
“Without these measures,” Gibson said, “Floridians will continue to remain vulnerable to anyone driven by hatred and easy access to guns developed for the battlefield.”
Galvano, in a memo emailed to senators on Aug. 5, said shootings that killed 31 people in Texas and Ohio are “an all-too-present reminder that we have more work to do.”
He assigned Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, a former Senate president and the Senate’s Infrastructure & Security Committee chairman, to lead the review.
“Our focus should be on steps the Senate can take to review and better understand the various factors involved in mass shootings, in addition to, and also including, school shootings,” said Galvano, R-Bradenton. “This includes white nationalism, which appears to be a factor not only with regard to these recent mass shootings, but also with other acts of violence we have seen across the country in recent years.”
Florida has endured six mass shootings of three or more victims since the June 2016 massacre of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the Valentine’s Day 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting that left 17 dead.
In her letter to Galvano, Gibson said the focus on white nationalism is warranted.
“Despite prominent attempts by some to equate white nationalism with mental illness, we are hopeful that the Senate will more closely examine it for what it is — namely, an expression of hatred fueling much of the violence we are witnessing nationwide,” Gibson wrote. “In the name of white nationalism, 22 people died, and 26 were wounded after an anti-immigrant gunman opened fire on back-to-school shoppers in El Paso. Hatred drove him; some say hatred even pulled the trigger.
“But should we fail to give these bills the thorough consideration they deserve,” she continued, “we continue to risk the lives of every family, every child — every Floridian — who looks to us for leadership and solutions to this escalating threat to their safety. We continue to provide the means by which that trigger can be pulled.”
Without “red flag” laws to address mental illness and “common sense” gun control measures, however, talk won’t mean much, Gibson said, noting “not one of the safety measures adopted following Parkland” — under 21 gun sale prohibition, expanded background checks, bump stock bans — “would have stemmed the body count” in the El Paso shooting.
The “act of terrorism was carried out with a single, unmodified AK-47-style semi-automatic rifle, legally purchased in Texas and easily available at gun stores and through private sales here in Florida,” she wrote. “The one inescapable common thread that has bound each and every one of these horrific mass shootings is the presence of an ‘assault weapon.’”
By John Haughey