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Florida Democratic Lawmakers Debut Agenda For Gun Violence Prevention

Ryan Dailey

A group of Florida House and Senate Democrats gathered Tuesday to detail their legislative agenda to prevent gun violence. The lawmakers also had a guest speaker who survived a mass shooting, and others advocating for more safeguards.

Patricia Brigham, president of Florida’s League of Women Voters, stood alongside Democrats from both chambers while they laid out how they intend to curb gun violence at the Capitol.

“2016 – 49 lives lost. 2018 – 17 young lives lost. Too many lives lost due to unnecessary gun violence,” Brigham said.

Among the Democratic legislators speaking was freshman Representative Anna Eskamani.

“We will take nothing less than meaningful, comprehensive gun safety legislation that you’ve already heard today,” Eskamani said. “And this does include a state ban on all semi-automatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, comprehensive universal background checks, a refusal of policies like open carry and campus carry, alongside legislation that does not arm our teachers.”

Seven bills related to gun violence prevention have been filed in the Florida Senate, and five in the House. There are several still in the draft phase. Representative Javier Fernandez of Miami-Dade wants tougher licensing requirements for gun permits.

“A little more than a course and a quick test can get you easy access to guns in Florida,” Fernandez said. “So, what I’m proposing is legislation to do something really radical – which is to adopt language and a live firearm training standard, adopted in the most gun-unfriendly of states of Texas, hopefully you’ll note the irony, by requiring applicants to demonstrate their proficiency in the use of a firearm.”

Fernandez says that can help lessen the number of accidental shootings. He adds the number of concealed carry permits has more than doubled since 2010 – from 740,000 to over 1.4 million today.

Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM
Florida House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee, alongside his colleagues Tuesday, lays out state Democrats' legislative plans to prevent gun violence.

Representative Tina Polsky is taking the lead on measures relating to safe gun storage.

“There should be no question as to how a gun is stored – either a locking mechanism or a safe. That’s it,” Polsky said.

Meanwhile, Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando has pushed the issue the past three years. This Session, he says he sees more support from Republicans.

“We are participating in multiple, televised town halls where our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are having the courage to show up. And they’re saying things like ‘I agree, I agree, I agree’ – Let’s do this,” Smith said to applause from those gathered.

Also present Tuesday was Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting. Today he advocates against gun violence.

“It’s been over two years since I crouched next to a bathroom sink at Pulse nightclub,” Wolf said. “It’s been over two years since I choked that night on blood and gunsmoke.”

The 2019 Legislative Session will begin March 5.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.