Does The NRA Have The Upper Hand In Florida’s Gun Law Battle?

With so many lawmakers divided on the issue – gun legislation in Florida is fading fast

If anyone thought that after the mass shooting of 17 people on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland was going to move the Florida Legislature to craft comprehensive gun laws forget it. Right now the chances of any real meaningful gun legislation coming this year are fading fast. As the nation and the world watches things are anything but clear about where things on gun laws are headed in Tallahassee.

While there is a massive battle between two Republican political giants Gov. Rick Scott and Land ‘O Lakes Representative – Speaker of the Florida Richard Corcoran. Both have proposals that are headed through the Florida Legislature, but neither has the support to become law, at least at this point in time.

But in the end, as both bills struggle the real winner could be the most powerful lobbyist in Florida. None other than the 78-year-old Marion Hammer, who for nearly 40 years she has been one the most powerful and influential NRA lobbyists in the United States.

She is benefitting from a big battle over the two bills.

Let’s begin with Corcoran’s House bill known in Tallahassee as HB 7101. At this point, it is on life support as both Republicans and Democrats are not too keen on voting for the proposal.

So why are state representatives from both sides racing away from the bill? Well, the main reason is the controversy, Corcoran is supporting the measure that would have school marshals — arm trained teachers and staffers. He calls HB701 a “game changer … a giant step forward in school safety.”

But most Floridians are not sold on the idea and the Capital switchboard is being flooded by calls from voters who want no part of arming teachers. As a matter of fact, this week a brand new Quinnipiac poll had 56 percent of the people polled in the state on the issue of teachers being armed no matter how well trained saying they wanted no part of arming educators.

That is a problem for more moderate Republicans and the entire Democratic side of the House and the Senate.

Both Corcoran’s bill and Gov. Scott’s have few things in common. A mandatory three-day waiting list as a background check is being done before buying any gun. They both agree on raising the age of owning a long gun from 18 to 21. Gov. Scott, however, does not want to arm teachers.

Meanwhile, a number of strongly conservative Republicans who are normally behind anything Corcoran purposes are taking their cues NRA boss Hammer by keeping a hard line on not raising the age limit to purchase guns from 18 to 21. They also want no part of the mandatory three-day waiting list.

Despite being the minority party the Democrats are citing that same Quinnipiac poll that was released this week showing the state wanted stronger gun control than what the Speaker or Gov. Scott offered.

The Dems point to the poll that shows 62 percent of Florida voters support a nationwide ban on assault weapons. That would, of course, include the AR-15-style rifle used at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

For either HB 701 or Gov. Scott’s bill to pass the Florida House, it would take at least 59 votes in the 117-member House, with three seats vacant. At this point, neither bill is close to that number and with so many lawmakers at odds with each other, it is very hard to see how they overcome their differences.

Yesterday, asked if he has the votes, Corcoran did not predict victory. He told the Herald/Times: “When you have a crisis like this … I find it hard to believe that the House, Senate and the governor can’t come to an agreement and have the votes to pass it.”
Some of Gov. Scott supporters feel that if Corcoran would drop the arming teachers’ position they might be able to find enough votes to pass the bill. But that is very unlikely to happen because there would still be the three day waiting period that some Republicans call “a nonstarter.”

So, at this point it looks at least for now the NRA continues to hold any gun legislation they deem harming them hostage. But there is still time to see if anything meaningful gun bill can be done in Tallahassee.

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Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.