A host of Democratic state lawmakers, and a coalition of gun-control groups, gathered at the state capitol Tuesday, pushing legislation they say may have stopped deadly shootings that happened in Florida over the past year.
Proposals filed for the 2017 legislative session would ban the ownership of the Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle, the weapon used in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12, in state, while strengthening background checks for those wishing to purchase guns.
The gun control bills face a difficult future in the Republican-controlled legislature.
A few hours before lawmakers held their gun-safety press conference, a group led by Tallahassee Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum was at the 1st District Court of Appeal where they urged judges to find laws that preempt local governments from passing gun-control ordinances unconstitutional.
Despite the opposition, however, supporters, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Florida PTA and Equality Florida, say the legislation deserves to be heard.
The legislation is proposed in light of the aftermath of the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub, which targeted the LGBTQ and Latinx communities in Orlando, as well as a mass shooting last week at the Fort Lauderdale airport, where a gunman open fired, and the fatal shooting of an Orlando police officer on Monday
Although concrete motives for these recent tragedies are unknown, there’s an urgent call to action from many legislators against the epidemic of gun violence.
Senator Gary Farmer, whose Broward County district includes Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, stated the conference was not intended “to sensationalize [recent shootings] in any way shape or form,” but instead, “to reignite a healthy discussion on how to strengthen the state’s legislation to hopefully eliminate many of the loopholes that remain.”
Democratic Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith referred to the proposal as “common sense legislation.”
“We need a holistic approach that includes restrictions on assault weapons and large capacity magazines,” Smith said. It includes … trigger locks, it includes universal background checks; it includes making sure that Florida is a state that provides comprehensive mental healthcare services.”
According to Smith, Florida is ranked 50th in the nation for mental healthcare funding.
The way to reduce gun violence is mental healthcare funding, Smith said, beginning with having conversations about these issues.
Hannah Willard, public policy director for Equality Florida, emphasized that it is not so much a second amendment issue, as it is a civil rights issue.
Last week, prior to the airport shooting, the Senate canceled a meeting scheduled for Tuesday that was expected to include debate about a controversial measure that would expand how and where Florida’s more than 1.67 million concealed-weapons license holders can carry handguns.
Among the topics that had been planned for the meeting was a bill that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry handguns in public and also would allow them to be armed on college and university campuses.
Under the bill, they also could carry guns at airport passenger terminals, in elementary and secondary schools, and at legislative and local government meetings. According to the Senate President’s office, the meeting was canceled because one committee member could not attend.
The News Service of Florida and WUFT News Reporter Daniela Prizont-Cado contributed to this story.