Debbie Wasserman Schultz, state Dems decry gun proposals


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz made an appearance in the Tallahassee on Thursday to join   legislators and activists in opposing a raft of controversial gun bills now circulating in the Capitol

Remarks from Wasserman Schultz and longtime friend and fellow Broward Democrat Sen. Chris Smith  seemingly were meant to shame GOP lawmakers into voting the bills down, rather than appealing to their interests.

As head of the Democratic National Committee, Wasserman Schultz spoke against the bills in partisan terms, blaming Republican “intransigence” for blocking tighter gun laws at the state and federal levels. The congresswoman said GOP leaders “worship at the altar of gun manufacturers and the NRA” and simply “don’t get it” when it comes to links between permissive gun laws and gun-related violence.

Florida State University professor and head of United Faculty of Florida’s FSU branch Matthew Lata said he could understand Republicans’ eagerness to expand gun rights despite opposition from “wild-eyed liberals” like his colleagues. More difficult, he said, is to understand them ignoring nay-saying from FSU President John Thrasher – rarely mistaken as a touchy-feely progressive – and the majority of Floridians, whom he said oppose the bill 4-to-1.

Public visits to the statehouse have been rare in recent years for Wasserman Schultz, who served in the Legislature and as legislative aide to now-U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch. She has since turned her attention to federal affairs after her election to Congress in 2001.

The proposals in question are primarily HB 4001/SB 68 and HB 163/SB 300, to allow guns to be carried openly and on campus, respectively.

Rep. Greg Steube‘s HB 4001 now sits on the House calendar awaiting a first reading, while its Senate counterpart sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers is in Judiciary, its third of four committee stops.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is running the open carry bill alongside his father and former Senate President Don Gaetz, has advanced his proposal to its final committee stop, the House Judiciary panel.

Smith also criticized SB 344 by Sen. Rob Bradley, though without directly identifying his upper-chamber colleague. The bill would expand the state’s “Stand Your Ground” regime by assuming the validity of self-defense claims by Floridians who shoot someone during a conflict. The bill is scheduled to be taken up by the full Senate Thursday afternoon.

Palm Beach Democrats Sen. Maria Sachs and Rep. Lori Berman also gave brief remarks Thursday morning.

UPDATE – 1:24 p.m: According to the Florida Democratic Party’s official Twitter account, the Florida Senate will no longer consider the proposal to allow guns on campus.

A similar bill was killed in the Senate last year as well.

Ryan Ray

Ryan Ray covers politics and public policy in North Florida and across the state. He has also worked as a legislative researcher and political campaign staffer. He can be reached at [email protected].


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