Bill Nelson is responding to criticism offered by Rick Scott that the Democrat has done “nothing” when it comes to gun safety.
“I have voted for and sponsored every major piece of legislation, including the comprehensive background checks, as well as getting the assault rifles off the streets,” Nelson told reporters Sunday following a church service he attended at Bethel African American Episcopal in East Tampa.
He said that those votes have gone in vain because Democrats are the minority party in Congress, sidestepping the fact that the Democrats did control all levers of the federal government in 2009 and 2010.
“Too many people have a desire to have an A+ rating from the NRA,” Nelson continued, boasting that he’s proud to have earned an “F” grade from the country’s leading gun rights group.
Scott announced a $500 million school safety package on Friday that the GOP-led Legislature will begin debating on Monday. Most of that funding would go towards putting a law enforcement officer in every public school, and beefing up Safe Schools funding to provide metal detectors, bulletproof glass and steel doors in classrooms. The proposal also calls for gun purchase restrictions for those committed under Baker Act and, perhaps most notably because it goes up against the NRA, a law requiring all people buying firearms to be 21 or older.
That provision, as well as similar measures proposed by President Donald Trump such as stronger background checks and banning “bump stocks” – a device that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire more rapidly — has left Nelson “encouraged” in terms of Republicans being willing to consider measures that they never explored prior to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre.
Nelson says it’s the young people at Stoneham Douglas and around the state who have been so passionate in calling for gun regulations that is making a difference so far.
“They see how the massacres increase so much when you have a high-velocity, rapid fire weapon that is designed for combat,” said Nelson, a self-described lifelong hunter.
Nelson said he was in sync with Scott in not supporting the idea of giving teachers guns for protection.
The Florida Democrat is running for reelection for his Senate seat, where he expected to face Scott, who has yet to formally declare his candidacy.
On Friday the two sounded like they were already running against each other when Nelson was dismissive of Scott’s suite of gun safety measures, saying the leadership coming from the governor’s office was “weak” and that he was choosing to only to listen to the NRA, and not the voices of the friends and family members of the Parkland victims who are calling for a ban on assault weapons.
Those comments prompted Scott to reply in kind that Nelson was simply a career politician who in almost 50 years of public life had done “nothing” to show for himself when when it comes to gun safety.
When asked to respond to that claim on Sunday, Nelson began by saying that Scott had failed to answer the question posed by a reporter.
“The question was: what do you think about Bill Nelson said ought to be done? The governor didn’t answer that question. He just wanted to go out, always blame the other fella,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he would reserve comment about the fate of Broward County Sheriff Sheriff Scott Israel, who is now facing severe heat following revelations that his office failed to adequately follow up on red flags about Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old confessed gunman of the Parkland incident. Coral Springs police officers who responded to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School say several Broward sheriff’s deputies waited outside rather than rush in as the killer was gunning down students.
Scott has called for the Florida Deptartment of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to conduct an investigation into the law enforcement response to the shooting in Parkland. Because of that investigation, Nelson said he would refrain from commenting.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bill Hager became the first member of the Florida House to call for Israel to resign from office based on reports about his agency’s handling of the shooting. That list had grown to nearly every other member of the Florida House by Sunday afternoon.
(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco).