As an old saying warns, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” With Florida’s 60-day legislative session getting under way January 14, Sunshine State gun owners are wondering about the mood in the capitol regarding their Second Amendment rights.
To no one’s surprise, Democrats are pushing for and filing anti-gun bills such as magazine capacity limits, assault weapon bans, the end of the state preemption law, repealing of self defense (stand your ground) laws, etc.
But the real question ism with their control of both the House and Senate, what will Florida’s Republicans propose and support? So far, the answer seems to be: nothing.
While Rep. Anthony Sabatini has introduced open carry and campus carry bills, there is little support for them outside the House. Why? Because Senate President Bill Galvano is still pushing for universal background checks.
“There are myriad things in play, but the background checks are very much being looked at,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, told The News Service of Florida in a recent interview.
Galvano pointed to what is known as the “gun-show loophole,” which allows people who buy firearms to avoid the three-day waiting period and background check required when guns are purchased from federally licensed dealers.
“I think we need to really take a look at that,” he said.
Galvano’s preoccupation with supposed loopholes isn’t anything new. Back in September, Galvano tasked Sen. Tom Lee, chairperman of the Senate’s Infrastructure and Security Committee to look into “investigating the causes of mass shootings and ways to avert future attacks.” What came out of that was Sen. Lee saying he could support more background checks.
From the Tampa Bay Times:
“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.”
Translation: it polled well and would allow Republicans to say they’ve done something about “gun violence.”
Galvano also is also in favor of expanding Florida’s red flag law by allowing family members, school administrators or health care professionals to directly petition courts to remove guns from people who are alleged to be a threat. That would bypass the current requirement that the confiscation petitions be filed by law enforcement.
This of course would lower the burden of proof since no actual (even) cursory investigation would take place before petitioning the court.
Fortunately, it appears that the House might hold the line and prevent Galvano’s red flag law expansion.
From WJCT News:
Rep. Cord Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican and attorney who specializes in Second Amendment law, said Florida, like other states, has plenty of statutes governing firearms.
“Most of the time when we pass new gun legislation, because there’s a ton of law already on the books, it ends up infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens,” Byrd told the News Service. “The criminals by definition are going to break the law anyway.”
Byrd, whose clients includes people fighting risk protection orders, said Florida’s red-flag law has “got problems.”
“It needs to be fixed. It does not need to be expanded,” he said. “It’s ruined people’s lives. People have lost jobs. I’m not saying we don’t need a mechanism in place, but the mechanism we have now needs to be improved.
Byrd also said expanding background checks for gun sales — which he said results in litigation that comprises the bulk of his work — isn’t the solution, either.
The background checks “are only as good as the data” in the state and national databases used to conduct the screenings, Byrd said.
“There are a lot of people that have to hire an attorney to get mistakes that are in the background system fixed,” he said. “It sounds good, but time after time after time in these shootings these are people that have passed the background check.”
More good news: Ban Assault Weapons NOW! and their petition goal of getting an Assault Weapons Ban on the 2020 ballot is pretty much dead in the water. According to the Florida Division of Elections, BAWN has 130,802 signed petitions. They need a statewide total of 766,200 signed and verified petitions by February 1.
BAWN has spent tens of thousands of dollars on printing petitions that come pre-filled with a voter’s name, address and voter registration number. They can be signed and sent back to them via prepaid postage. But even that hasn’t gotten the near the total of signatures they need.
That doesn’t mean the fight is over, though.
From the Tampa Bay Times:
Patti Brigham, president of the Florida League of Women Voters and committee member of Ban Assault Weapons Now, said the mailers are just an example of how important it is to “make the public aware that this initiative is critical to the safety of all Floridians.”
She said while they are trying to remain optimistic, they plan on continuing the campaign into the next election cycle if they don’t make it to the 2020 ballot.
“We’re just doing anything we can to get petitions signed,” she said.
Additionally, a number of Florida’s cities have filed a lawsuit against the state’s preemption law. They claim that the personal fiscal penalty levied against city and county officials who violate the law by enacting local gun control ordinances is unconstitutional.
From The Capitolist:
Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson sided with local governments against the gun law in July of 2019. He addressed a concern for protecting governmental officials in their decision-making processes with a “legislative immunity”.
“Because local governments must have what amount to small legislatures, and because courts cannot interfere in legislative processes, neither this court, nor any other court in Florida, can enforce the civil penalty provisions (of the law) against local legislators,” Dodson said.
Currently, the Governor and Attorney General are fighting that ruling, having appealed it to the District Court of Appeals. Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Nikki Fried is backing the lawsuit.
Lawyers for Attorney General Ashley Moody and Gov. Ron DeSantis took the case to the Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeals, and in a brief last month, cited a “hierarchical relationship” between state and local governments and pointed out the Florida Constitution “subjugates local governments’ authority to that of the Florida Legislature.”
So it appears that the status quo in terms of gun laws will be maintained on the legislative side. And I don’t see the preemption law being repealed via the lawsuit.
If the District Court of Appeals sides with the County Court’s ruling, the case will then go before the State Supreme Court. Currently, Gov. DeSantis has two open seats that he will be making appointments to and that should tip the court favorably in his direction.