It’s been two years since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting that left 17 dead. Since then, the legislature has passed several laws in an attempt to prevent more gun violence. Some of the changes include arming teachers, raising the legal age to purchase guns, and removing weapons from people who police are worried might harm themselves or others--the so-called red flag law. This session, Senate President Bill Galvano (Bradenton-R) asked lawmakers to study the causes behind gun violence, but so far not a lot is happening.
"Two years ago the legislature passed some pretty aggressive legislation for a Republican legislature. "Particularly these red flag laws which have been used pretty broadly throughout Florida," Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon) said. He says the new rules have helped to keep guns out of the hands of people who could have presented a danger.
Senators Look For More Ways To Fight Violence
Lee chairs the committee Galvano tasked with looking into gun violence. He’s also behind a bill that would make several change including requiring background checks for all firearm sales in public places, like gun shows. The measure would also put more rules in place for private sales.
"[That's] to try and come up with some mechanism to allow gun sales between two private individuals to have some documentation that is held by the seller so that if that gun is ever used in a commission of a crime there’s a way to trace that weapon back to the original sale," Lee said.
But so far, the bill has only gotten one hearing, and it’s now past the session's halfway point. In the House, no similar legislation has been heard.
"It’s probably too early to predict what the outcome is going to be. But the House and Senate are definitely going two different directions right now," Lee said.
House Bills Could Expand Access To Firearms
Bills moving in the House expand where guns can be used, Lee says.
"There’s two bills moving in the House. One is to allow public officials and local government officials to carry weapons into their public meetings, and there is also one as you said with churches that allow those concealed weapons there as well," Lee said.
But those aren’t the bills Rep. Cindy Polo (D-Hialeah) would like to see.
"I think gun reform needs to be at the top of our, at the top of every single discussion. Because there’s not just one solution. Just this session we as a Democratic caucus have introduced over 30 bills that address all sorts of different things," Polo said. Because they tell us well so this one can’t be done, okay so we’ve given you 29 other options."
House Democrats Question When Gun Violence Will Be Addressed
Prior to the start of this year’s session Polo tried to gather lawmakers to make changes after back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
"Over early fall myself and Representative Jose Javier Rodriguez also from the Miami-Dade area led an effort to call for a special session on gun reform," Polo said. "We were told before we even had the full signatures, before even the process had been completed on asking for the special session, we were told by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President that a special session was not needed because session 2020 was just around the corner."
But Polo says she’s still waiting.
"So if a special session wasn’t needed because we were going to address it. Why have no gun reform bills been placed on committee agendas? And why is it they aren’t hearing the bills?" Polo said.
Polo is the sponsor of two bills dealing with guns. One would prohibit them from being carried into or used in daycare facilities the other would allow local governments to regulate the sale of firearms or ammo on their property.
Gun Reform May Become a Bargaining Chip
Lee is still hopeful.
"Probably when we get into allocations on the budget beginning in week 6, week 7. There’s going to start being some conversations take place in between the House and the Senate and say well we have things into position to consider some grand bargain between the two chambers. What does that look like?" Lee said.
Week 6 starts Monday. Currently no gun reform legislation is scheduled to be heard.