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Galvano Under Criticism For Gun Control Bill, Campaign Contributions

A man in a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie sits at a table surrounded by microphones
Ryan Dailey

Florida Senate President Bill Galvano has been under fire for accepting campaign contributions from gun control advocates and for supporting a universal background check bill. Now his colleagues—Republicans and Democrats, are coming to his defense. 

Galvano tasked Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, to come up with a plan for addressing gun violence. The result—a bill requiring background checks for private sales in public places: think gun-shows. The so-called "gun show loophole" has long been targeted by advocates and closing it has been a struggle in Florida, due to active opposition from conservatives and gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.

“If anyone votes in favor of this bill, it’s like a doctor giving a patient an antibiotic for a virus. The doctor knows it won’t cure the illness, but at least he can make people think he’s doing something," said longtime NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer during a recent hearing for the bill. 

In recent days, Galvano has been the target of attacks from the likes of North Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, and Donald Trump Jr. who blasted the Senate President over his support for the bill and for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the group Everytown for Gun Safety. The organization  was created by Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York who is now running for president.

Trump Jr. called Galvano a “RHINO”-- short for “Republican In Name Only”. It's a diss aimed at Republican’s who aren’t considered conservative enough.

“I think the backlash is unfair, dangerous and completely, completely over the top," said Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation. She called Galvano a "hero" and is coming to his defense, along with Parkland parent Fred Guttenberg whose daughter Jaime was killed in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“I’m not sure Sen. Galvano and I would be aligned on a lot of issues," Guttenberg said during a press conference promoting a legislative proposal that would extend background checks to ammunition purchases. "We are on this. The backlash on him has been distasteful, dis-civil and unfair. He’s trying to do one simple thing. Be a part of ensuring more Floridians don’t die from gun violence.” 

On the other side of Guttenberg is fellow Parkland dad Andrew Pollack whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow Pollack died in the Parkland shooting. Pollack is a strong backer of gun rights. On Twitter, he expressed outrage over Galvano’s Everytown contributions and his support for the 2018 law that instituted three-day waiting periods for guns, banned bump-stocks and instituted a “Red Flag” provision that lets law enforcement petition courts to remove guns from people deemed to be a threat.  

Still Galvano has Republican supporters.

"I’ve served with President Galvano for nine years…if there’s one thing he’s not is a RHINO," said House Speaker Jose Oliva. He says the proposed universal background check bill is a non-starter in the House, but adds that’s not a reflection of his Senate counterpart.

“That probably won't move very far in the House if at all, that's just the way the chambers are. I think that the pile on was entirely unnecessary.”

Also offering support to Galvano, Governor Ron DeSantis. 

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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