There won’t be a gun control special session anytime soon in Tallahassee in response to House Democrats’ call to address an “epidemic of gun violence.”
While the deadline is Tuesday for members to reply to the session request, by the weekend 56 House members – 55 Republicans and Rep. Al Jacquet, D-Riviera Beach – had declined interest in convening to discuss gun control proposals.
That makes it mathematically impossible to secure the needed 60 percent necessary to call a special session. At least 72 of the House’s 120 members had to agree.
The responses posted Friday by the Florida Secretary of State’s office also showed at least 16 of 40 senators – all Republicans – said they were opposed to a special session.
The House Democratic caucus on Aug. 20 called on the Secretary of State Laurel Lee to poll lawmakers about holding a special session to consider gun control bills in the wake of shootings in El Paso and Dayton earlier this month that left 31 dead.
Outnumbered in the House, 73-47, and in the Senate, 23-17, even if all 64 Democrats voted for a special session, they’d still need one-third of the Legislature’s Republicans to sign on.
This is the fourth time Democrats have called for a special session to discuss gun control legislation since the June 2016 massacre of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
There have been five more mass shootings of three or more victims – including the Valentine’s Day 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting that left 17 dead – in Florida since.
Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and House Speaker José Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, issued statements opposing the special session immediately after House Democrats asked for a poll. Gov. Ron DeSants added his opposition later last week.
Galvano – who has asked lawmakers to focus on finding ways to “better understand the various factors involved in mass shootings,” including “white nationalism” – and Oliva both said they prefer to address gun control proposals during the 2020 legislative session, which begins Jan. 14.
“We have committee weeks coming up and regular session shortly thereafter,” Oliva said. “I have no doubt there will be robust discussions about our Second Amendment rights, mental health and their importance in our society.”
Democrats are expected to introduce a slate of gun control bills in the upcoming session, including a proposal to prohibit the sale of three specific groups of “assault weapons” – Sig Sauers, AR-15s, AK-47s – and restrict magazine capacities by Sen. Linda Stewart.
As of Sunday night, Stewart had not formally filed her bill, although at least three gun control bills had been pre-filed in the Senate.
Senate Bill 114, sponsored by Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, a “red flag” law that would add parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings and guardians to the list of individuals able to request a risk protection order from a judge to require law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from an individual “the petitioner has reason to believe poses a threat to themselves or others.”
SB 114 has been referred to the Senate Infrastructure & Security, Judiciary and Rules committees. The Infrastructure & Security Committee meets Sept. 16 and the Rules Committee convenes Sept. 19 in the first round of pre-session discussions.
Senate Bill 94, sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, which would require background checks for all firearms transactions, including on the internet.
Book’s bill has been referred to the Judiciary, Criminal Justice and Rules committees. The Criminal Justice Committee is set to stage its first meeting on Sept. 18.
Senate Bill 134, Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, would repeal a 1987 preemption law prohibiting local governments from adopting gun regulations more restrictive than the state’s. It has not been assigned a committee.
Rep. Dan Daley, D-Sunrise, has filed a House companion bill, HB 6009, which has also not been assigned committees
House committees will also meet Sept. 16-20 but, as of Sunday, a schedule had not been posted.