Wednesday, February 14, 2024

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: On eve of Parkland shootings anniversary, Dems note status of gun bills in Legislature. (Mitch Perry, Florida Phoenix)

""No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session." -- Gideon John Tucker 

On eve of Parkland shootings anniversary, Dems note status of gun bills in Legislature

Proposal to lower age for purchases seen as ‘slap in the face’ to victims

BY:  - FEBRUARY 13, 2024 3:55 PM
Protest against gun violence at Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa in February

 Protest against gun violence at Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa in February 2018. (Photo credit: Mitch Perry)

A day before the sixth anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida Democrats condemned attempts to roll back provisions of the gun laws passed after that tragedy and considered what still needs to take place to make the state safer from gun violence.

The 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act banned a person younger than 21 years old from purchasing a firearm but, for the second year in a row, House Republicans are trying to repeal that provision. However, the measure lacks a Senate sponsor, and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo has said she has no interest in moving that bill.

Dan Daley
 Dan Daley. Source: Florida House

“Yet here we are, opening that wound through every committee it goes through, through a floor vote, right? Why are we doing this?” asked Broward County Democratic House Rep. Dan Daley in the remote news conference. “So as far as I’m concerned, candidly, that bill and so many others in this building this year are a slap in the face to my community, to the victims and their families, and really is absurd.”

That measure (HB 1223) sponsored by Republicans Bobby Payne from Putnam County and Tyler Sirois from Brevard County, has moved through two committees in the House and is scheduled to make one last stop at the Judiciary Committee before going to the House floor. But Passidomo called it a “non-starter” in her chamber two weeks ago.

Another part of the 2018 gun law that Florida GOP lawmakers want to repeal allows the state to take more than three days if necessary to complete a background check for a perspective firearm purchaser. According to a staff analysis of the proposal in the House, if the Florida Department of Law Enforcement can’t to determine whether a person is prohibited from purchasing a firearm from a federal firearms licensee within the three-day period, the agency would have to issue a conditional approval for delivery of the firearm.

That House bill (HB 17) is waiting to be heard in the Judiciary Committee, its second and last stop before hitting the floor. However, its Senate equivalent SB 1124, has yet to be heard in any of the three committees to which it has been assigned, meaning it could die with just a little more than three weeks left in the legislative session.

Even so, Daley expressed frustration that none of his bills related to gun safety, such HB 1087, setting standards for safely storing firearms in motor vehicles or vessels, have moved at all in the House.

“They’re not even willing to have a conversation,” Daley complained. “You know why? Because I think that they think that it’s good policy and they don’t want to have to vote on it. They don’t want to have a reasonable conversation.”

Eroding gun control

Gun safety advocates were unhappy last year after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed “permitless carry” legislation allowing residents to legally carry concealed weapons without having to obtain a permit from the state. But Second Amendment supporters were equally unhappy that the Legislature didn’t pass an “open carry” law.

At the beginning of the 2024 session, Hillsborough County Republican Mike Beltran filed a measure (HB 1619) that would allow people to openly carry firearms and lawmakers to carry concealed firearms in the state Capitol. But it has not been heard in any committee and there is no Senate sponsor.

One Year Anniversary Parkland tragedy
 A memorial at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, following the mass shooting on February 14, 2018, in Parkland. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Debbi Hixon lost her husband, Chris Hixon, at age 49 in the Parkland tragedy; he was the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who ran into the building to try to stop the shooter. In the aftermath of her loss, she was one of the family members to form the group Stand with Parkland.

She praised the 2018 state law for its measures regarding school safety, red flag laws, resources for mental health programming in schools, and raising the age for an individual to purchase a firearm.

As for softening the law, “I’m happy to say that was thwarted based on Stand with Parkland going up to Tallahassee and speaking with lawmakers, so at least for this year that is not going to be something that comes to fruition,” she said.

Also appearing in the video news conference was Orlando area U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, who has focused on gun violence since being elected to Congress in 2022. He said the anniversary of the Parkland tragedy was a time for action, and not just words to honor the victims.

“It’s one thing to remember — thoughts and prayers are one thing, but the real question that I’m interested is how will you honor them with action, and that’s the work that Democrats both in D.C. but also in Tallahassee and also in the state Legislature and municipal government across the state of Florida are thinking about and fighting for: How are we going to honor the lives that were taken with action to make sure that it never happens again?”

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Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.


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