If you're trying to predict what kind of new legislation Tallahassee will eventually pass in response to the Parkland massacre, just ask a simple question: What would Marion Hammer do? The über-powerful NRA lobbyist has spent the past 20 years methodically turning the Sunshine State into a heavily armed free-for-all, and so far, the bought-and-paid-for GOP Legislature has never failed to do her bidding.
As Marjory Stoneman Douglas High survivors demand bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, Hammer has already made her position known: No new gun restrictions. Period. And yesterday, the Republican state senators who dance to Hammer's tune took the first step toward keeping things status quo.
In a committee vote on a comprehensive post-Parkland safety plan, seven GOP senators voted to strip out bans on assault weapons and bump stocks, the vile attachments that can effectively turn semiautomatic rifles into fully automatic killing machines. Instead, they approved plans to arm teachers and allow more guns into schools — the exact opposite of what Stoneman Douglas High survivors have requested.
A furious crowd of activists shouted, "Shame! Shame!" from the galley as the senators cast a 7-6 vote against the bans, which were proposed by Miami Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez.
Hammer, of course, showed up to the hearing and claimed the assault weapons ban would outlaw "practically every gun known to man" — exactly the kind of absurd claim the NRA has leaned on for years to prevent even the simplest pieces of common-sense gun control from passing in Florida.
To her credit, Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores backed her colleague's proposed assault weapon ban. Politico quoted her as saying, “I think it is the right thing to do... I know in my district and constituency they support it.”
Flores was the only GOP senator to back the measure, though.
In the end, the committee voted 9-4 to approve a bill that includes a few modest reforms: a general age restriction of 21 for most gun purchases (but with several mammoth loopholes), a new rule allowing police to seize weapons from some people deemed threats to the public, and a ban on buying bump stocks in Florida (which would leave a giant loophole allowing anyone to buy them out of state or online).
But the committee could have made a real statement Monday. They could have bucked Hammer and banned the military-style weapons that enabled Cruz to murder 17 people and injure 14 others in minutes. They could have meaningfully restricted the bump stocks that create de facto automatic weapons.
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They didn't, because Hammer and her mountains of NRA cash didn't want them to. Here are the seven no votes if you'd like to let them know how you feel about that choice:
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto: 239-338-2570
Sen. Rob Bradley: 904-278-2085
Sen. Jeff Brandes: 727-563-2100
Sen. Bill Galvano: 941-741-3401
Sen. Tom Lee: 813-653-7061
Sen. Keith Perry: 352-264-4040
Sen. Wilton Simpson: 352-540-6074
The bill will be taken up today by the Senate's appropriations committee while a similar bill moves through the House. Gov. Rick Scott has backed some of the modest gun-control proposals that made it out of committee yesterday, but you can bet Hammer will follow the bills all the way to the floor and demand even those weak restrictions be removed.
If the result in a few weeks is a "safety" bill that seeks to arm teachers and allow concealed weapons on school campuses while doing nothing to cut down on sales of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks, don't be shocked. This is Florida, and Marion Hammer usually gets what she wants.