State lawmakers who have already spent two special sessions in Tallahassee this spring to deal with matters that they didn’t address during their regular legislative session are now being pushed by Democrats to hold a third special session on reforming gun laws in Florida.
What You Need To Know
- The request for a special session asks to regulate high-capacity rifle magazines, conduct universal background checks for gun purchases, expand the state’s Red-Flag Law
- The Florida Legislature passed several gun reforms following the Parkland shooting in March 0f 2018, including a Red Flag law that allows law enforcement to ask a judge to remove firearms from someone deemed to be dangerous to themselves and/or the community
- The only measure that Gov. Ron DeSantis has spoken to support is a law that would allow an individual to carry firearms in public without a permit
South Florida Democratic Rep. Joseph Geller made the request to Secretary of State Cord Byrd last week, writing, “It is imperative that we take common sense steps to address this epidemic of gun violence that has led to atrocities in places like Parkland, FL, Buffalo, NY, and most recently in Uvalde, Texas.”
Geller’s letter included three provisions he’d like the Legislature to take up in the special session:
- Regulating large capacity rifle magazines
- Requiring universal background checks for all gun sales
- Expanding the state’s Red Flag law
The Florida Legislature passed several substantive gun reforms in 2018 in the immediate aftermath of the shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Democrats have discussed nationally some of those measures over the past two weeks as a model to follow since the tragedy at Uvalde occurred. That 2018 law included raising the age to buy long guns from 18 to 21 and adding a three-day waiting period to purchase a firearm. The law also created a program to allow trained school staff to carry guns, and create the Red Flag law, which enables law enforcement to petition a court to restrict temporary access to firearms by those considered being dangerous to themselves or to others.
It’s doubtful that Republicans will support the Democrats proposal.
“You didn’t have hardened schools, and you didn’t have law enforcement who were doing their job,” Hillsborough County state Rep. Mike Beltran says about what he considers the key problem in both Uvalde and in Parkland. “And those are not things that are addressed by Representative Geller’s proposal.”
Pinellas County Democratic state Rep. Michele Rayner says that the state needs to act, and she says as a criminal defense attorney, and as someone representing petitioners in injunction hearings, she believes that the state’s Red Flag law has “loopholes that I think need to be closed.”
The proposal to limit the size of gun magazines is something that Tampa Democratic state Sen. Janet Cruz strongly approves of.
“Maybe magazines shouldn’t be able to hold over 10 rounds of ammunition,” she says, adding that most of the American public supports the idea of implementing universal background checks for gun sales.
When asked what she would say to her GOP colleagues who aren’t likely to support the call for a special session, Cruz says that they should vote to return to Tallahassee and at least have the public conversation.
“They can come in and debate alongside of us and try to compromise,” she says. “I mean, we’re talking about school safety. We’re not talking about anyone’s right to bear arms. That is not the discussion. This discussion is about school safety, and everyone should want to be part of this.”
Lake County Republican state Rep. Anthony Sabatini blasted the Republican-led Legislature and Governor Rick Scott when asked specifically about the state’s Red Flag law, which was enacted in 2018 after the Parkland mass shooting.
“I think it’s probably the most heinous and unconstitutional law on Florida books right now,” he said. “And it was ushered through by a set of cowards in the Republican Party who were afraid of the media.”
Both Sabatini and Beltran said that they would support having a special session on guns, but only to pass legislation that would allow to carry firearms without a permit. It’s what its supporters call “Constitutional carry,” and it’s a proposal that Gov. DeSantis decided to support as well.
At least 20 percent of the Legislature filed written certifications with the Dept. of State calling for a special session to address gun violence, all Democrats. That triggered Section 11.011 (2) of the Florida Constitution, which requires that the Dept. of State poll the members of the Legislature to determine whether three-fifths of the members from both the House and the Senate favor a special session for that purpose.
The poll sent out today by Secretary of State Cord Byrd requests that the form that asks whether a special session “should be convened for the purpose of considering proposals to address gun violence” must be returned to the Dept. of State by no later than 3:00 p.m. on Friday, June 10.