Republicans vote no on special Florida legislative session to address gun violence

Protest against gun violence at Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa in February
Protest against gun violence at Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa in February 2018

Although not all the votes are in yet, it’s apparent that there won’t be enough support for the Florida Legislature to convene a special session to address gun violence this summer.

This is the fourth time in six years that Democrats have called for a special session to address gun violence.  None have been successful. The votes are completely down party lines, with all Democrats voting for the special session, and all Republicans voting against it.

With just a day before the voting ends, only 27.5 percent of the 120-member state House and 27.5 percent of the state Senate are in support. Sixty percent of both houses has to vote yes for the session to take place.

As of Monday afternoon, there are 11 votes for the session in the Senate and 19 votes against it. Ten members have yet to vote.

In the House, there are 33 votes for a special session; 62 members have voted against it. Twenty-five members have yet to vote.

The call for lawmakers to return to Tallahassee came from state Democrats last week in the wake of the most recent mass shootings that took place in El Paso and Dayton earlier this month.

Democrats have already read the math, however, and held a press conference in Orlando on Monday to denounce the rejection of the special session.  Democratic state lawmakers from Miami are scheduled to host a similar press event on Tuesday.

The special session would have addressed six changes to improve Florida’s failing gun laws:

  • Require background checks for the transfer of all firearms;
  • Prohibit the sale, transfer or possession of large capacity ammunition magazines;
  • Reduce the duration of licenses required to carry concealed firearms;
  • Revise requirements for the safe storage of weapons in the home;
  • Expand the number of individuals that can petition a court for a risk-protection order where a gun owner is believed to be a risk to themselves or others;
  • Establish an Urban Core Gun Violence Task Force on reducing day-to-day gun violence.

“Hopes and prayers are simply not enough to stop this crisis, we need immediate action and bold leadership to stop the damage being done to our state on a daily basis,” the House Democratic leadership said in a statement on Monday.

In 2013 and again in 2018, Democrats called to convene a special session to repeal the state’s controversial “stand your ground” legislation. And in 2016, Democrats called for such a session to discuss gun control measures in response to the Pulse Night Club shooting that killed 49 people.

In expressing his opposition to a special session, Republican House Speaker Jose Oliva said last week that “we must always strive to do something right rather than just do something. We have committee weeks coming up and regular session shortly thereafter. I have no doubt that there will be robust discussions about our Second Amendment rights, mental health, and their importance in our society.”

Republican Senate President Bill Galvano has assigned Eastern Hillsborough County state Senator Tom Lee to study the factors behind gun violence.

Legislators have until Tuesday, August 27 at 5:00 p.m. to cast their votes on the call for the special session.

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