Lawmakers Say They Want More Attention For Real Gun Law Change

Apr 2, 2013

There are many bills in Florida this legislative session that deal with gun laws.  Some legislation calls for stronger restrictions on the use or sale of firearms, while others focus on deregulation and less constraint on guns.  Some lawmakers say they want more attention on the gun issue for real change to take place. 

It has been nearly 4 months since the Newtown, Connecticut shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and 7 faculty members.  At the onset of the tragedy almost 60% of America was in favor of more stringent gun laws; less than 1 in every 10 wanted the laws to be relaxed in any way. 

But a recent CBS News poll suggests in the 4 months since the massacre the number of Americans wanting stricter gun laws has gone down by 10 percent, while the number of people wanting less regulation has gone up.  And in a Southern state, like Florida, it’s a statistical dead heat, half want more regulation, and half want to keep it the same.  This has created tension in the Legislature.  Some lawmakers, like Senator Dwight Bullard, a Democrat from Miami, said gun laws aren’t moving through committees.

“What we’re at is the midway point of session, and looking at the reality that very few gun control related bills have moved or begun to move in this process,” Bullard said.

Bullard cites several bills, all filed by Democrats, and all but one filed over a month ago, that have still to even go before their first committee.  Some of the bills include language on concealed weapons, background checks, and gun shows.  Bullard said the urgency to act on these issues isn’t political; it’s about a level of safety.

“In a meeting with those people prior to session, really where the passion comes from is that these individuals say that they feel like they’re living in Beirut: that they have to lock their doors by 6:30pm every night, have to lay on the floors, have to avoid standing by windows,” Bullard said.  He said wants to see workshops for legislators, and leadership to create better gun legislation.  “Too often times we get caught up in the talking points that ‘they’re trying to take guns away from those who are law abiding citizens’, well we’re simply asking for is the protection of those citizens who are victimized by gun violence in their own neighborhoods.”

Other lawmakers like Representative Cynthia Stafford, another Democrat from Miami, has also filed a bill but has only seen one of its three committee stops.  She said a bill like hers, which augments the “stand your ground” rule, need to at least be heard in the gun policy conversation.

“I’m pleased to stand with my colleague, Senator Bullard, to call on lawmakers to allow bills that deal with gun control policy that they may not necessarily agree with but at least give us the opportunity to be heard,” Stafford said.

Republican lawmakers have had lots to say in recent weeks regarding gun issues.  Representative Neil Combee, a Republican from Auberndale, said he’s trying to send a message to the federal government.

“This memorial remind the President and Congress of their duty to uphold the Constitution and preserve our second amendment rights, and expresses opposition that might infringe upon that right.”  Combee said at a recent House Judiciary Committee meeting.

Combee’s bill has more than 50 co-sponsors, and has already made it to the House floor.  One of those co-sponsors was Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Shalimar.

“In Florida I think it’s a great source of pride that we believe in the Second amendments, that we believe that the 2nd amendments make us safer,” said Gaetz.

Up to now, it seems the majority of the Florida Legislature has adopted to stand its ground, follow the polling numbers, and opt not to make many changes to Florida’s gun policy.

For more news and information from Steven Rodriguez, follow @StevenFPR on Twitter.