Gun bills are on hold in Tallahassee and DC as lawmakers fight over the details
Things have returned too normal as the NRA has regained control in both Tallahassee and Washington. Early this week it looked like there was a spark of hope that common sense gun control laws might be enacted after 17 people were killed on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
But in Tallahassee this week the grand dame of the NRA 78-year-old Marion Hammer, who for nearly 40 years she has been one the most powerful and influential gun lobbyists in the United States made sure she had a majority of Republican lawmakers back in her camp. 871 miles north in Washington, D.C. after an upbeat meeting on Wednesday at the White House where President Donald Trump was ready to move forward on comprehensive gun legislation, he had dinner Thursday night with the top brass at the NRA and he was not as giving on gun reform as he was less than 24 hours sooner.
In Washington both of Florida’s Senators were busy talking about gun reform legislation. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio endorsed “Fix NICS,” as well as legislation called the Stop School Violence Act that would provide federal grants to strengthen security and training to identify threats.
He said he would introduce legislation for “gun violence restraining orders,” which would allow law enforcement or family members to remove guns from people deemed a threat. He called for more prosecutors to go after people who purchase weapons for those who cannot legally obtain them on their own.
Just before Rubio offered his plan a frustrated Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson took to the Senate Floor to make his feelings known to the state, the country and the world.
“The time to act is now,” Sen. Nelson said Wednesday in a speech from the chamber. “Let’s don’t let what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High fade into a memory like so many other tragedies.”
Talking to the Tampa Bay Times, Republican David Jolly, a former Congressman who represented Pinellas County had this take on the battle.
“I think the gun lobby ultimately wins,” said Jolly. Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee “should be encouraged for working on incremental reforms, but I think voters today see incremental reforms as insufficient.”
While a bill in D.C. likely won’t see the floor in the in either chamber next week. Back in Tallahassee they will have a rare Saturday session. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, sent out a memo announcing the floor session, saying the bill’s sponsor, Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, wanted “additional time to work on this important issue.”
According to the Tallahassee Democrat who reported on the session. “Holding the session on Saturday is the best option for both working within our existing rules and affording this legislation the serious time and consideration it deserves,” Negron said in the memo.
Like the House bill that is in deep trouble so is the Senate proposal. The bill has drawn criticism from politicians and activists on both sides of the aisle:
Gun lobbyists, including the National Rifle Association, oppose the legislation because it raises the age from 18 to 21 for the purchase of all guns and imposes a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases.
Gov. Rick Scott opposes the portion of the bill that would create a “school marshal” program to arm and deputize teachers and other school staff members.
Several Democrats – and multiple survivors of the shooting – oppose the legislation because it includes the marshal program and doesn’t include a ban on assault weapons.
So, the bottom-line is we are no closer today to meaningful common sense gun legislation than we were on Monday. The power of the NRA along with some indecisive lawmakers continue to hold up any progress.
VIDEO FROM PBS NEWS HOUR