A memorial at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, following the mass shooting on February 14, 2018, in Parkland. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
With nationwide attention on gun policies following several recent mass shootings, Florida Democrats called for a special session in the Legislature to expand gun restrictions, but it became a lost cause.
As of late Friday afternoon, it was clear that no GOP lawmakers were willing to engage in a special session, even when Democrats said they would not propose an outright ban on assault weapons.
The Democrats instead had proposed three issues: Regulating high-capacity rifle magazines, mandating universal criminal background checks for all firearms, and expanding so-called red flag laws.
“We felt as if what we were asking to have a discussion about were things that are wildly popular across the board throughout the state of Florida and really the entire nation,” Rep. Evan Jenne, who represents part of Broward County, said on a Friday Zoom call with other Democrat lawmakers.
“Unfortunately, those requests fell on deaf ears, and while we did have nearly 100 percent positive participation from Senate Democrats, from House Democrats, we were not able to cross the threshold necessary in order to trigger a special session.”
Jenne made the comment about an hour out from a 3 p.m. deadline on a poll that would require at least 60 percent of all Florida lawmakers in both House and Senate chambers to trigger a special legislative session on gun violence prevention.
The Secretary of State launched the poll Tuesday, June 7, to close at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 10. The results showed that no Republicans in the Legislature agreed to launch a special session and there were not enough Democrats to carry it on their own.
With the massacres in May at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, the horrific shootings are fresh in the minds of many Americans. Those mass shooting deaths came after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in 2016, and Broward County’s Parkland in 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, among other mass shootings.
State Rep. Joseph Geller, who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade and was the first Democratic lawmaker in the House who requested a special session on gun restrictions, said that the proposals were very modest and that the Democratic lawmakers were “not trying to do everything.”
Rep. Michele Rayner, who represents parts of the Tampa Bay area, said during the Zoom conference she was “hopeful” Republican lawmakers would “step up” and “have courage and have political will” to support a special session on expanded gun restrictions.
“Because the things that we are asking for are not things that are hard, are not things that aren’t popular with their own constituents,” Rayner said. “And so, it’s not about the inability to pass these laws or to do a special session. It’s the lack of political will that’s unfortunately exhibited on the other side of the aisle.”
Calls for gun control will continue
Meanwhile, hundreds of protests across the nation and in Florida will take place Saturday, organized by the gun-control activist group called March For Our Lives. spurred by the tragedy at Parkland, where 17 children and staff were killed by a gunman.
According to the March for Our Lives website, there are marches scheduled in nearly every U.S. state and Washington, D.C.
There’s even one scheduled in the city of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, according to the March for Our Lives website, “across from the Street from U.S Consulate.”
Almost two dozen individual protests are scheduled throughout the day across the state Saturday — including at the Florida Capitol Building in Tallahassee, Pensacola at the far end of the Panhandle, Orlando and the Central Florida area, the Tampa Bay area, and Miami and other areas in South Florida.
On the Friday Zoom press conference, Rep. Dan Daley, another Broward County representative, noted that he will participate in demonstrations.
“I’m marching with my community… to say ‘we’re going to make sure this time is different,'” Daley said.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, plan to will “local leaders and activists fighting to end gun violence at the March For Our Lives rally in Orlando.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat gubernatorial candidate, also was scheduled to attend March For Our Lives Parkland.
The March for Our Lives protests will come a day before the six-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub, where 49 people were murdered. Many of these victims were Hispanic and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
This story was updated.
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