Florida Senate President Bill Galvano is calling for a review of mass shooting factors that will focus on white nationalism when lawmakers begin pre-2020 session committee meetings in September.
Galvano, in a memo emailed to senators, said weekend shootings that killed 31 people in Texas and Ohio are “an all-too-present reminder that we have more work to do.”
He assigned Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, a former Senate president and the Senate’s Infrastructure & Security Committee chairman, to lead the review.
“Our focus should be on steps the Senate can take to review and better understand the various factors involved in mass shootings, in addition to, and also including, school shootings,” said Galvano, R-Bradenton. “This includes white nationalism, which appears to be a factor not only with regard to these recent mass shootings, but also with other acts of violence we have seen across the country in recent years.”
The aim of the review will be to “help us determine what further actions can be taken at the state level that will build on the legislation we passed in 2018 and 2019,” he said.
Florida has endured six mass shootings of three or more victims since the June 2016 massacre of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Following the Valentine’s Day 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting that left 17 dead, lawmakers adopted Senate Bill 7026 during their 2018 session.
SB 7026 raised the age to legally purchase a firearm to 21, banned “bump stocks,” created “red flag” standards that allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from people dealing with mental health issues, and allocated $400 million for school security and mental health services for students.
This year, lawmakers adopted SB 7030, which expanded SB 7026’s school “guardian” program to allow armed classroom teachers, allocated $75 million more into school mental-health services and imposed more strident reporting requirements for potentially threatening incidents on school grounds.
The state recently created a framework for Lee’s commission to work with in developing a response to mass shootings.
Gov. Ron DeSantis in July authorized the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to form a Law Enforcement Steering Group of sheriffs and police chiefs to assess ways to reduce “senseless acts of targeted mass violence” in a first-in-the-nation “comprehensive threat assessment strategy.”
Galvano said legislators must continue to exam ways to keep guns from mentally ill – and hateful – people in a “bipartisan manner.”
“As lawmakers, we all recognize no function of government is more important than the safety of the people we serve,” he said. “Senseless acts of violence like we saw across the country over the weekend must stop and that begins with condemning the hate that perpetuates these evil attacks.”
House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, echoed Galvano’s comments but did not commit his chamber to a similar review.
“Racism, including white nationalism, is a vile, disgusting, un-American ideology,” Oliva said in a statement. “We cannot lose sight, however, that those who subscribe to those beliefs are few and their ideas so rejected that their words and actions unify all Americans – left and right, black, white or brown – in abhorrence and condemnation.”
Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, were among those who responded enthusiastically to Galvano’s call.
“The ideology of white supremacy is evil,” Bradley said in a tweet. “It is the antithesis of what our country stands for and it offends God. It must be confronted aggressively so that it cannot metastasize further.”
“I love his email,” Stewart told Florida Politics shortly after announcing she would file a bill seeking to ban “assault weapons” for the fourth straight year during the 2020 session.
The 2020 session convenes Jan. 14 with pre-session committee meetings beginning Sept. 16.