These Florida Lawmakers Fought Gun-Safety Laws in the Year After Parkland

These Florida Lawmakers Fought Gun-Safety Laws in the Year After Parkland
Florida House of Representatives
Florida House of Representatives
This past Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In those 12 months since 17 kids and teachers were slaughtered, mass-shootings have obviously not stopped, and it is still remarkably easy to obtain a gun in Florida. Numerous news outlets — including the New York Times and Miami Herald — have published gut-wrenching accounts about how America coped with gun violence since Parkland.

It's important to tell the stories of those victims — but it's also vital to chronicle why nothing has really changed that much in the last year. And, while Florida did enact a few meaningful gun-safety laws after the shooting, a whole lot more could have happened last year. Things didn't change because of these people, specifically:

1. Matt-effing-Gaetz, who happily defended the National Rifle Association right after the massacre, has since insulted Parkland parents, and even nonsensically claimed that Trump's "border wall" will stop shootings:

By now, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz has made it almost blatantly clear he's in the pocket of the gun lobby.

Less than two weeks after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Gaetz tweeted, "The @NRA is an organization that takes 100% of the blame for the conduct of 0% of its members." Then, in May, he accepted a $2,500 campaign donation from the organization. To no one's surprise, the NRA endorsed Gaetz, a Republican who represents the Pensacola area, for Congress last July.

On Wednesday, however, Gaetz took his gun-rights fervor to another level when he tried to get Manuel Oliver, father of Parkland victim Joaquin "Guac" Oliver, kicked out of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on preventing gun violence.

2. These morons who blamed school-shootings on a lack of religion in public life or the "dissolution of the two-parent household"

In a post-Parkland recap, New Times noted that numerous officials had blamed school-shootings on the unreligious:

State Representative Randy Fine, a man who looks like a sentient raspberry, offered that as an answer on both CNN and his own Facebook Live stream yesterday. Fellow State Rep. Julio Gonzalez used this as an excuse last week on the right-wing radio show he hosts. And Miami-Dade County Commission Chair Esteban Bovo, a longtime friend of Marco Rubio, blamed the shooting on a lack of "God in public life." 
Moreover, some of those same politicians blamed single parents, even though Nikolas Cruz was himself raised by two parents:

Both Reps. Randy Fine and Julio Gonzalez have offered this response. Gonzalez said on his "Right Talk America" radio show that shootings might be happening because of lax family morals and a society that no longer teaches "men to be men."
Oh, and State Sen. Dennis Baxley compared banning guns to banning "spoons" in order to cure obesity:

3. All of the state lawmakers who voted down an assault-weapons ban right after the massacre

This actually happened at least twice, first, six days after the killings:

Perhaps no piece of news illustrates how depraved and broken the Florida political system is than what just went down in Tallahassee. Just six days after Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 assault rifle to murder 14 teenagers and three adults at a high school in Parkland, the Florida House of Representatives voted down a measure to ban purchases of assault rifles and large-capacity magazines statewide.

The GOP single-handedly defeated the measure as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who'd just survived the slaughter watched in the gallery. Some broke into tears as the vote was read. The same students have been insulted, victimized, and attacked by conspiracy theorists and shameless pro-gun opportunists all week, and today their state government let them down once more.

Today's vote was simply to discuss the idea of banning sales of the kind of military-style weapon used in Parkland. (It's worth remembering that the federal government had such a ban in place for a full decade until 2004.) Yet every single Republican state representative in Miami-Dade County voted no.
And again one week later:

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.

4. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who also took NRA cash right after Parkland

Even in the "Gunshine State," the National Rifle Association is rapidly becoming politically toxic. After the Parkland school massacre February 14, every politician closely aligned with the NRA took a rightful beating: Sen. Marco Rubio was ridiculed on live TV during a CNN town hall, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam has still not lived down calling himself a "proud NRA sellout."

But according to federal disbursement data from the NRA's Political Victory Fund, the first South Florida member of Congress shameless enough to take cash from the NRA post-Parkland is none other than local GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who, according to federal records, cashed a $1,000 NRA check June 6. Diaz-Balart has accepted $2,000 from the NRA overall for his 2018 reelection bid, but half of that money came in 2017.

Politico first reported at the tail end of a story yesterday that Diaz-Balart took his last NRA donation June 6. According to the outlet, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a pro-gun-control group, has been targeting him for the $32,002 he's taken over the years from the NRA. (Rubio has cumulatively accepted a whopping $3.3 million, by the way.)

5. Panhandle State Rep. Mike Hill, who is currently trying to repeal the post-Parkland gun-safety laws

Given Florida's reputation as the National Rifle Association-dominated "Gunshine State," many political observers were surprised state lawmakers passed a relatively long list of gun-safety restrictions after the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. For example, legislators approved a "red-flag" law that lets cops temporarily confiscate guns from people who threaten to hurt themselves or others. A 2018 New Times investigation showed the provision successfully took guns from hundreds of potentially dangerous people, including alleged domestic abusers.

But yesterday Florida Rep. Walter "Mike" Hill, a Panhandle Republican, filed a bill that would repeal many of the gun-safety provisions passed as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

Among the changes Hill proposes: return the legal age to purchase firearms to 18 from 21 and weaken the state's mandatory, three-day waiting period for firearms. Under his proposal, buyers would only need to wait three days for handguns. (Concealed-carry permit-holders would have no waiting periods at all.) He even wants to re-legalize bump-fire stocks, which effectively turn semiautomatic rifles into fully automatic machine guns and were used to murder 59 people in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre.

Perhaps most amazingly, Hill has proposed repealing the 2018 state law that allows people who fear for their lives or the lives of others to obtain "risk-protection orders" that permit law enforcement officials to temporarily strip allegedly dangerous people of their guns. That law allows domestic-violence victims or loved ones of potential mass shooters to petition judges for the temporary confiscation of firearms from those who might harm them. (Studies show men who commit mass shootings are far more likely to have committed acts of domestic violence or partner abuse in the past.)

Reached via phone last night, Hill declined to speak and asked New Times to send him questions via email. (He said it was "not a good time." We will publish his responses when he returns them.)
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.