Gun Control Bills Piling Up In Florida Legislature: Will They Be Feasible?

Dec 6, 2019

Thousands of people gathered at the Florida Capitol demanding action on gun control in wake of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
Credit Lydell Rawls / WFSU News

Gun safety advocates say more needs to be done to prevent mass shootings. But some say those proposals could be hard to enforce.  

In 2018, students marched to the capitol and demanded lawmakers pass gun control laws. They hoped to prevent another mass shooting like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A public safety commission was convened to study the shooting and other acts of mass violence with a goal of improving school safety. However, that wasn’t enough for the student-led March for Our Lives organization. In November, the group again rallied at the capitol to push its new proposal—Peace Plan for a Safer America.

“We just want to show representatives that the youth have power," Alyssa Akbar says. She's a a freshman at Florida State University. Akbar is supporting the Peace Plan which calls for banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It also call for lawmakers to create a taskforce with the goal of preventing gun violence.

It’s an idea Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, wants to get behind. He’s part of a group of lawmakers hoping to enforce universal background checks. Currently, guns bought or borrowed in private are exempt, and Rodriguez calls this a ‘loophole.’

“Our goal as Democrats, frankly, is to get a universal background check law passed. No matter how it’s accomplished or how it looks, that’s our goal," Rodriguez says.

Under his bill, most people who buy or sell a gun would need a concealed weapons or firearm license or would have to go through a licensed dealer. Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, have filed similar proposals.

However, Midway gun range and shop owner Charlie Strickland says universal background checks could be hard to enforce. He points to a proposal last year that stirred backlash.

“Most conservative people that are gun owners–that are law abiding gun owners and even liberals that we train that are left wing on other issues that come to us for firearms training and they want to get a concealed carry permit because they’re afraid. Most of these people have decided and made very clear –not necessarily vocally but very clear to people within their circles that as these laws pass we’re basically not going to comply.”

Rodriguez says something has to change. He points to high-profile shootings like Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland where scores of people were killed and injured. In Tallahassee, a 2018 shooting at a hot yoga studio sparked a community outcry. Rodriguez says gun violence is starting to become the norm.

“We no longer live at a time when we can say that a single particular event is motivating our gun safety legislation. Here in Florida, it’s not simply Pulse, Parkland, it’s a daily epidemic of gun violence that doesn’t make the headlines.”

But Strickland argues violence will happen no matter what. He's a former law enforcement officer.

“Taking away the tool is not going to prevent the violence. Never has and never will," he says.

About 33 gun-related bills have been filed. Most seek to tighten regulations.