In the wake of mass shootings at an Orlando nightclub and at the Fort Lauderdale airport, the gun-control debate intensified Tuesday with Democratic lawmakers filing legislation to try to improve gun safety while an appeals court heard arguments about local-government gun ordinances.
Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, announced they are sponsoring a proposal (SB 254) that would ban so-called assault rifles and "large capacity" ammunition magazines. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, is sponsoring the measure (HB 167) in the House.
The bills would specifically ban the ownership of Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifles, which was the type of weapon used by Omar Mateen in killing 49 victims at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June.
Smith said banning military-style assault weapons is part of a "common sense" approach to gun control, while also urging lawmakers to improve funding for comprehensive mental-health programs.
In addition to the assault-weapon ban, Farmer said he is working on other legislation, including a measure (SB 142) that he said would eliminate "loopholes" in Florida's trigger-lock law, which requires guns to be safely secured when they are kept near children 16 or younger. Farmer is also working on a bill calling for broader background checks for gun purchases, although the measure has not been filed.
Farmer's district includes Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, where five people were fatally shot Friday. He said if some of the measures had been in place, "perhaps" they could have prevented some shooting tragedies, although he said it would take a "concerted" effort by multiple levels of government to deal with the problem.
The gun-safety legislation is supported by a coalition of groups including the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Florida PTA and Equality Florida.
But the legislation sponsored by three minority-party, freshmen lawmakers will face significant opposition in the Republican-dominated Legislature, which has been more supportive of gun rights rather than efforts to curb guns.
Eric Friday, a lawyer representing Florida Carry, said the Tallahassee officials "swore an oath, and took a job, to follow the laws of the state of Florida."