The latest effort to reform Florida’s gun laws failed this week. It was in response to last month’s deadly mass school shooting in South Florida. As some clamored for an assault weapons ban and background checks, Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission refused to take up any measures that would do just that.
“Hello, I’m David Hogg, and I am one of the individuals that was at school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on February 14th, and amazingly enough, I survived,” said Hogg.
Hogg is one of the faces of the “Never Again” movement, started by Parkland teenagers protesting gun violence. He and other Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students survived the mass shooting that left 17 people dead and 17 others injured.
“17 of my fellow friends and amazing individuals who wanted to change the world and were going to, no longer can, and that’s why I’m here to speak on their behalf,” he added.
Hogg and others—as part of the “Never Again” movement—have been trying different avenues to get some of their gun control efforts accomplished—whether talking to the Florida legislature, holding rallies, speaking to members of Congress, and taking part in Saturday’s “March For Our Lives” rally.
Another hope of theirs was to get something done through the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. The CRC is a 37-member panel tasked with revising the constitution every 20 years, and will put matters before voters on the November ballot.
During a recent CRC public hearing tour, Hogg and others with the “Never Again” movement pleaded with commissioners to do something.
Dylan Baerlein, who graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas last year, asked the commissioners to file a proposal to override a current state law that prohibits local governments from creating their own gun control policies or face a fine.
“This statute allowed the current mayor of Tallahassee Andrew Gillum to be sued by Florida Carry and the Second Amendment foundation—two gun rights organizations—for attempting to ban the use of firearms in public parks,” said Baerlein, at the CRC meeting in Cape Coral. “It allows corporations to sue local legislators for any move they make that may inhibit or negatively affect in anyway gun sales. This is why local leaders are afraid to do anything about gun regulations in our state.”
Others also called for an assaults weapon ban and universal background checks. And, gun owners, like Parkland parent Kevin Quinn, felt the same way.
“I’ve been a gun owner since I was 12-years-old,” he said, at a CRC meeting in St. Petersburg. “I’m legitimately part of the gun culture, but it was a tool. Something has happened along the way, and the message has gotten terribly toxic and it’s gotten hijacked…18 to 21, Universal background checks, assault rifles, limitations based on magazine size, these are common sense reforms that do not infringe on me or responsible gun owners.”
Several CRC commissioners, like Roberto Martinez, tried to attach some gun control amendments to a proposal. Martinez said a recent Quinnipiac poll supports those efforts.
“On the question of whether or not you support requiring background checks for all gun buyers, the poll indicated that 96 percent of the voters supported it, 94 percent of Republicans, and 97 percent of Democrats,” Martinez told the full CRC Commission. “And, by the way, for the record, in case you didn’t know, I’ve been a Republican for 41 years.”
One amendment by Martinez mirrored the new gun safety law recently approved by Governor Rick Scott. It includes the ban on bump stocks and raising the minimum age for anyone to a buy a gun to 21—already subject to a couple lawsuits. Martinez insisted all he wanted to do is let the voters decide.
“This is a once in a lifetime for all of us issue,” he added. “This is a once in 20 years issue because we won’t be meeting again until 20 years from now. Please, don’t give up this opportunity.”
But, that as well as other proposals were not allowed to be taken up because opponents said it had nothing to do with the initial CRC proposal repealing what’s known as the “Alien Land Law.” Originally aimed at Asian immigrants, the current law prohibits them from owning land or property.
Former Senate President Don Gaetz was one of the CRC commissioners, who did not want to take up the gun control amendments.
“So, I don’t believe that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “There was an opportunity. The Legislature took it. Maybe, each of us could have written a better law, than the legislature passed. I don’t know. But, they passed it. And, what Commissioner Martinez has done is to simply parrot what the legislature has already done. And, I don’t think the reason to place it in the Constitution deals with the challenge that will really occur, which will be in federal court.”
Other proposals that failed to be taken up by the CRC included an assault weapons ban and comprehensive background checks for purchasing a firearm.
Here are some responses via Twitter from those upset over those decisions:
.@FloridaCRC voted to pass up its once-in-a-generation opportunity to address gun safety reform. If not now, when? If not 49 at Pulse, how many? If not 17 in Parkland, where? If not other people's kids, whose? #NeverAgain #HonorThemWithAction #FlaPol #Sayfie
— Equality Florida (@equalityfl) March 21, 2018
Parkland had 2 demands. 1) BAN assault weapons 2) DO NOT arm teachers. So @FLGovScott decided to arm teachers; NOT ban assault weapons. Then FL polls show 2/3 support the ban. What does the majority GOP CRC do? Refuse to put it on the ballot! #Sayfie https://t.co/FZLS0CDegd
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) March 22, 2018
today the @FloridaCRC did us dirty, i missed school, hopped on a bus without knowing anyone and poured my heart out in front of them so they can think about gun reform just so they can pass up their once every 20 year opportunity by doing nothing.
— valery #NEVERAGAIN (@flyawayvalery) March 21, 2018
Today the @FloridaCRC failed #NeverAgainMSD fearing to 'waive rules' & let Floridians vote on #AssaultWeaponsBan. I'm so proud of the team for engaging in the CRC process & have your voice heard in Cape Coral. It was an honor working with you! pic.twitter.com/4wI2V3On8c
— Michael Rajner (@MichaelRajner) March 21, 2018
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