FL Dems pursuing a special session are not proposing an outright ban on assault weapons

By: and - June 7, 2022 4:41 pm

Credit: WikiMedia Commons

Florida Democrats pushing for a special session on gun restrictions said Tuesday that they would regulate large capacity rifle magazines. But at a Zoom call with Democratic lawmakers, they did not propose outright banning assault weapons, such as AR-15-style rifles used in the Parkland and Uvalde shooting massacres.

Those are the kind of weapons that President Joe Biden wants Congress to ban.

Instead, the Florida Democrats want to get gun experts to find ways to limit the ammunition, according to what was said Tuesday in the call pursuing a special session on gun violence.

State Rep. Joe Geller, who represent parts of Broward and Miami-Dade and was the first Democratic lawmaker in the House who requested a special session on gun restrictions, said in an earlier phone call with the Florida Phoenix that, “I personally support a ban on assault weapons, but we did not include this in this call.”

Geller also said on the phone with the Phoenix that he would want to attract bipartisan support for any gun restrictions.

State Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, also from Broward, said in an earlier phone call with the Phoenix that good work was done back in 2018 with so-called red flag laws, after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland. But, she said, “there is more work to be done.”

Hunschofsky said she hasn’t spoken to any GOP lawmakers yet about a special session. “I think it’s important, as public servants, that we work together,” she said.

The Zoom call relates to the effort to get a special session going. That would mean 3/5 of lawmakers in each of the chambers, the House and the Senate, to agree to such a session. The Secretary of State launched the poll Tuesday and it extends to 3 p.m. on Friday, June 10, according to the Florida Department of State.

Here is what the poll says:  Should a special session of the Florida Legislature be convened for the purpose of considering proposals to address gun violence?

The special session would include three issues: Regulating high-capacity rifle magazines, mandating universal criminal background checks for all firearms, and expanding red flag laws.

The red flag laws are from the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which included several measures.

The red flags permit law enforcement to seize firearms from people who pose a serious threat to themselves or others as determined by a court order. The intent is to temporarily prevent certain people, including those who may be experiencing a significant mental health crisis, from obtaining firearms for up to one year, until the person can reasonably prove they are no longer a threat, based on a legislative analysis.

According to a legislative analysis, these red flag measures attempt to balance “between the rights of the person (respondent) including due process of law, and reducing death or injury as a result of his or her use of firearms during a mental health crisis.”

The 2018 law also included a 3-day waiting period on most sales of firearms, an expansion of the preexisting law that only required the waiting period on handgun sales. And in a major change, the Legislature raised the legal purchasing age of a firearm from 18 to 21 years old, and prohibited others from transferring or selling their gun to someone under the age of 21.

As to universal background checks, currently those checks are only required if someone is trying to purchase a gun from federally-licensed gun dealers. But a private citizen does not necessarily have to follow such procedures if selling their own firearm, according to a staff analysis of 2018. This is what’s known as the “gun show loophole.”

So unlicensed firearm sellers, such as those who run gun shows, are not federally required to ensure that purchasers are not likely to use the gun to intentionally harm another. However, states may impose additional background checks for private sales.

Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new school safety bill into law Tuesday, HB 1421, that made tweaks and changes to the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

One of those is requiring law enforcement to be present on school campuses when they are running an active shooter drill.

Another one is requiring safe school officers to complete mental health crisis intervention training.

And another one is, requiring school districts and public charter schools to create family unification plans when schools are closed or unexpectedly evacuated.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.