Gun-reform measures released by Gov. Rick Scott and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature are being hailed as the greatest proposed deviations from hard line pro-gun laws in the Sunshine State in recent history — but Democratic officials, groups and politicians have been quick to claim the proposals are inadequate.
The legislative initiatives released Friday are intended to address issues unearthed by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre. Scott and the Legislature have proposed banning the sale of bump stocks and raising the minimum age to 21 for the purchase of all guns, with some exceptions for military and law enforcement personnel.
Both plans have hefty price tags. The Legislature wants to allocate $263 million for school safety improvements and $102 million for mental health services; respectively, Scott wants $450 million and $50 million.
The Legislature is backing the idea of the “Marshal Program,” in which school faculty members are trained to carry firearms on campuses. Scott does not support the idea.
State leadership announced the measures in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz fatally shot 17 students and teachers with an assault rifle.
As expected, the Parkland-inspired proposals are not being lauded across party lines. At the crux of Democrats’ criticism is the absence of a proposed ban on assault weapons.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:
Instead of listening to students & parents, Gov. Scott’s plan bows to the NRA’s demands. It does not expand criminal background checks or ban assault rifles, such as the AR-15. Raising the age to 21 is the bare minimum. We need to get these assault rifles off our streets.
— Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) February 23, 2018
Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum:
“The Governor’s proposal still falls well short on assault weapons, even though this is the time for a statewide ban and Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are demanding one,” Gillum’s campaign said in a written statement. “Republicans’ own polling shows a majority, including a majority of Florida gun owners, want a ban on these weapons of war.”
But, citing a Republican-commissioned poll that shows the majority of Floridians and state gun owners support a ban on assault weapons, the campaign criticized Scott for not attempting to halt assault rifle sales.
Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:
The proposals announced Friday were “too little, too late.”
“Investing in safer schools is long overdue — and must be prioritized and fully funded this year. … Raising the age for purchasing all firearms is long overdue — and must be passed this Legislative session,” Graham said in a statement. She also called for an assault weapons ban.
Gubernatorial candidate Phillip Levine:
Levine agreed with “making school safety a top priority in Florida,” along with providing for more intensive background checks, mental health screens and additional law enforcement resources at schools.
But, joining the battle cry of his Democratic colleagues, Levine ultimately criticized the Legislature and Scott for not banning assault rifles.
“The elephant in the room is still there: we must get assault rifles off the streets and away from our schools. Permanently,” Levine said in a prepared statement. “Freedom should not come with a warning label: ‘These guns may be harmful to children’s survival,’ but with a guarantee that these killing weapons remain on the battlefields, not in classrooms.”
Gubernatorial candidate Chris King:
“In 20 years of one-party rule, Florida’s leaders have utterly failed to take action to end the scourge of gun violence in our state and today’s proposals from Governor Scott and the GOP legislature are too little, too late. Governor Scott’s plan does nothing to ensure universal background checks and would not ban military-style assault weapons. Tallahassee has ignored our voices for far too long––their time to act was long before Parkland or Pulse. Now we must take up the cause ourselves and elect new leaders who offer fresh ideas, bold solutions.”
Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon:
“We can beef up mental health screenings, raise the age for gun purchases, and dream up other stopgap measures, but the threat to our children and our citizens will continue until we finally take bold action ban assault weapons designed for the battlefield from easy access in our communities. Without that, the voices of the students, and the will of the people, continue to be ignored.”
House Minority Leader Janet Cruz:
“These measures backed by the gun lobby are unacceptable. If leadership is truly willing to have a real and open discussion and debate on the merits of policies to save the lives of Floridians, then I am ready and fully committed to working hard to achieve a product that will keep our constituents safe. If this is the normal bait and switch that will leave Democrats shut-out of the “process” while they crow of bipartisanship, then I will call it like I see it; a sad attempt to cover their asses in the face of tragedy.”
Party politics has failed us. Working together always works better. Some don’t agree with my style, but I sleep well at night. 🤷🏾♂️
I appreciate your kind worlds, Bro. Brian! https://t.co/SI0czFmvhl
— Shevrin Jones (@ShevrinJones) February 23, 2018
State Rep. Kionne McGhee:
Gov. Scott's recently announced plan falls short of what the people of Florida are demanding. There is broad support for a ban on assault weapons and we must hear them out. https://t.co/MdeKoj7YoY
— Kionne McGhee (@kionnemcghee) February 23, 2018
State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith:
MSD students, teachers + families have made one thing very clear. BAN assault weapons now or VOTE THEM OUT! If @TheFLGOP + @FLGovScott refuse to listen, we'll send them our own thoughts + prayers! #Sayfie https://t.co/jorR4w1XLd
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) February 23, 2018
State Rep. David Richardson:
Glad to see the Governor is on board with my bump stock ban and raising the minimum age for buying a gun, but a AR-15 isn't safe at any age. We need to do more to protect our citizens, we need #GunReformNow #EnoughIsEnoughhttps://t.co/ETpFv0O8Sv
— David Richardson (@david4florida) February 23, 2018
Florida Democratic Party:
On the Legislature-backed proposal to train and arm school faculty, the FDP called it a measure “to keep the gun lobby happy and advance Richard Corcoran‘s political ambitions at the expense of the lives of our children.”
“The only people who think that putting guns in the hands of teachers is a good idea are Richard Corcoran and Donald Trump,” claimed FDP spokesman Kevin Donohoe. “Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed that arming teachers is dangerous and will make our schools more unsafe, endanger the lives of students and teachers, and do very little to prevent mass shootings.”
State Attorney General candidate Ryan Torrens:
“As America is enveloped in our crisis of gun violence, I am reminded of President Franklin Roosevelt in his First Inaugural Address when he said: ‘Our nation asks for action and action now!’
“Sadly, our legislature, backed by the NRA, voted against even bringing an assault weapons ban up for a vote. It is clear that the Florida GOP is going to keep putting the NRA and their own reelection before the safety of our children and our families.
“Not only is our legislature refusing to act, but in 2011, the legislature actually passed a law prohibiting local governments from passing reasonable gun ordinances to protect their children and families. This is absurd.”