The 2020 Florida legislative session is right around the corner and right now the House and Senate are engaging in committee to discuss crafting legislation. As such, I’m back in the front row watching this happen live and in person at the Capitol.
Senate President Bill Galvano (R) — the man who crafted the post-Parkland gun control bill SB 7026 that former Governor Rick Scott signed into law after it passed the House and Senate with GOP supermajority support — directed Sen. Tom Lee (R) to lead a Senate workshop last week. Sen. Lee is the chair for the Senate Committee on Infrastructure and security. That committee is made up of five Republicans to three Democrats. But that doesn’t matter.
Sen. Lee was one of the few Republicans who voted against SB 7026 back in May 2018. So I hoped that he would run the workshop as a dog and pony show to appease Galvano and nothing more. But Sen. President Galvano is not to be trusted.
Sen. Lee told the Tampa Bay Times that when SB 7026 was crafted and passed it shocked the core of the Republican party of Florida’s views on gun rights.
“It definitely broke the seal.”
Rep. James Grant (R) has confirmed that the seal is, in fact, broken on Republicans going after Second Amendment Rights.
“Populism is a plague on the republic,” said state Rep. James Grant, a Tampa Republican who leads the House subcommittee on Criminal Justice. “We have to be responsive to our constituents, we have to be listening to them, but this era of populism … it sets up a tragic pathway forward.
There comes a time in our society that public opinion consolidates so much around an issue that a representative democracy can no longer represent in denial,” Lee said. “It will move or it will get replaced.”
Speaking at the workshop were Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen and Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight. I can tell you this: the FDLE as an agency is no friend to the Second Amendment and Sheriff Knight in particular is no friend of ours.
Sheriff Knight spoke at the workshop for the entire Florida Sheriff’s Association. That organization has always been anti-gun. Sheriff Knight is just like Pinellas County Sheriff Gualtieri and is against Floridians carrying (either open or concealed) firearms.
Knight has also announced that he isn’t running again and this will be his last term. So he isn’t beholden to the voters and I predict that he’ll back gun control. Commissioner Swearingen was in favor of trampling over Floridian’s 4th Amendment Rights.
My fear was that other Republicans wanting to stay in office will bend the knee and kowtow to the the loudest voices and restrict our rights and it appears that I was correct. Florida Republicans will probably back universal background checks and expanding the state’s red flag laws.
“Probably the thing that makes the most sense, if there is something to be done in the area of common-sense gun safety, would probably be an enhancement of some kind of background check system, to look and see where there are holes in that system and if there is room for improvement,” Sen. Lee, told reporters.
“Of all the things I’ve reviewed, and all the ideas that have come forward, that’s the one that seems to me to make the most common sense, not just to me, but to the average Floridian,” said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa.
“Does anybody think we have too many gun laws in Florida right now?” Lee asked.
No one on the panel raised their hands.
Lee then mentioned that after the Parkland shooting, the Legislature broke decades of inaction on gun legislation by raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21. “There’s no silver bullet,” he said. “We need to take a comprehensive approach.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Sen. David Simmons (R) wants to make 25 the the minimum age for purchasing an “assault weapon.” As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he can hold other bills hostage for favorable treatment of his proposal.
He told the audience he would introduce the measure for the next legislative session that begins in January, which will be Simmons’ last as a term-limited senator.
The proposal as drafted would bar some individuals under age 25 from purchasing, possessing or selling assault weapons, which Simmons defined as firearms with a fixed or detachable magazine capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
“Given the circumstances now and over the last 15 to 20 years, we need to go ahead and do this,” Simmons told the Orlando Sentinel. He was referring to the spate of mass shootings that have taken place, including at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016 and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018.
He said he was a strong believer in the Second Amendment, which he said was put in place so Americans could defend themselves against a tyrannical government and not just to allow access to guns for hunting or self-defense.
Of course Sen. Simmons made sure to throws in an “I support the 2nd Amendment, but…”
But, he added, “Thirty years ago, [issues with] assault-style weapons were not as common as today. We didn’t have at-risk young men committing the kinds of crimes they’re committing. … I think we need to ensure they don’t have access to assault-style weapons.”
Sen. Simmons tried to add such an amendment to SB 7026 when it was being debated on the Senate Floor in 2018. I was there and saw it with my own eyes when then Senate President, Joe Negon (R) allowed an assault weapons ban to be added to the bill by a voice vote, but Sen. Baxely fought tooth and nail, demanding a recorded floor vote and the amendment lost.
Now, the Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida says that such legislation is dead on arrival.
“It’s unlikely that I would ever support anything like that,” said state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. “In the present Legislature, I would say it has a zero percent chance.”
But I wouldn’t put much faith in him or the RPoF since he also admits that SB 7026 should have not happened, but did.
Gruters acknowledged the gun safety law passed after the Parkland shooting was also unlikely to have passed a GOP-controlled Legislature, “but I don’t think there’s an appetite to go down that path again.”
The 2018 Senatorial Election proves that Florida Republicans can pass gun control legislation and win. Then-Governor Rick Scott was elected Senator and many of the Republicans in the Florida Legislature won reelection and kept their seats.
Democrats, of course, aren’t leaving this stone unturned.
State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, who has proposed complete assault weapons bans each year since 2017, said he “immediately applauded” Simmons’ announcement at the league event that he also attended. Simmons had described it there as a “ban.”
Smith said later he was disappointed in the many exceptions. But, he added, “I’m open to any restrictions on assault weapons. As always, the devil is in the details. I will continue to work with Sen. Simmons on his idea.”
Lastly, here are the current bills have been submitted in the Senate. They are in no way pro Second Amendment.
SB 266 requires that a firearm be locked in a safe or have a trigger lock on it when it’s in the home. If this becomes law, you can’t keep a gun at the ready in your home for personal protection.
SB 134 repeals the state preemption law and allows political subdivisions and municipalities to pass their own gun control ordinances. Basically a city or county could pass their own assault weapons or a magazine bans. They could also regulate gun ranges and gun shops out of existence.
The following two bills piggyback off each other. They push UBCs and end private sales. Also they restrict the “temporary” transfer of firearms to other parties even if they’re family. If a firearm is to be transferred, a background must be done and a 4473 must be completed through an FFL.
SB 94 ends private sales in the state and mandates that all transfers must go through a dealer. It also mandates universal background checks. You can’t loan a family member a gun for more than 14 days. That means if you’re in the military or away from your home because of work, you can’t have someone store your guns for you. You’d have to transfer your guns to your spouse for the time you’re away to comply with the law.
SB 270 repeals the provisions that a dealer must release a firearm to a buyer after three business days if there is a delay in the background check. Currently, if FDLE doesn’t contact the dealer within three business days, the firearm can be released to the purchaser. Under the bill, if the FDLE never gives a confirmation, the gun can never be released. The bill also limits loaning a firearm to family members for more than 10 days.
Here are the bills introduced in the House of Representatives.
HB 117 requires applicants to have a mental health evaluation conducted by a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist before they can qualify for a CCW Permit. This is not inexpensive and brings up a question on what makes a person “rational” enough for a CCW permit.
HB 6001 repeals the provisions that allows someone with a CCW to carry a TASER or stun gun on a college or university campus. The carrying of firearms is already forbidden, so this bill would completely disarm people.
HB 6009 is just like SB 134. It repeals state preemption and allows political subdivisions and municipalities to enact their own gun control ordinances.
This is the only pro-gun bill is HB 6003. It repeals the gun control provisions passed in 2018 after Parkland. It basically guts SB 7026. It would end red flag orders and restore the rights of any Floridian under the age of 21 to buy a long gun. It would also repeal the state bump stock ban (though they would remain banned under the ATF reclassification. The bill would also reverse the state ban on binary triggers.
So in the immortal words of Samuel L. Jackson….
Another legislative session is about to start and I firmly believe that we’re in for some trouble.