With Florida’s Democratic lawmakers demanding a Special Session on gun control, Gov. Ron DeSantis says Democrats are coming after the Second Amendment.
Rep. Joe Geller, the Aventura Democrat who began the call for a new Special Session, says their proposed topics were supposed to draw the Republican majority to the table following last month’s mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. But in answering a reporter’s question on Wednesday when explaining Democrats’ outline, the Republican Governor spurned Democrats’ proposals, likely damning the longshot effort.
“With all due respect to these leftists, they just want to come after your Second Amendment rights,” DeSantis said. “Let’s just be honest, that’s what they want to do. They don’t want you — they view you, as a law-abiding citizen, as the target of what they’re trying to do. How can they, on the one hand, say they’re serious about this when they support these people who let all the criminals out of prison and they don’t prosecute people?”
Speaking with Florida Politics Wednesday afternoon, Geller called it a stretch to deem DeSantis’ comments a “response” to their Special Session request. Furthermore, he called the Governor’s comments disingenuous.
“These leftists? Nothing in our proposal would take a gun away from anybody who has one,” Geller said. “We’re trying to control who gets one, and we’re trying to make sure that people who have been clearly dangerous have a red flag.”
Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, whose district includes Pulse nightclub, where a shooter killed 49 and wounded 53 others in 2016, told Florida Politics the Special Session request is a modest one. DeSantis likes to cause chaos and throw insults instead of solving problems, she continued.
“For the Governor to try to pivot and say this is about leftists taking away firearms, it’s just not true,” Eskamani said. “Nothing in this Special Session order would take away anyone’s firearm.”
Special Sessions are limited to the topics originally outlined for the Session, except when approved by the Governor or by two-thirds support of both chambers. Geller’s Special Session call is limited to regulating high-capacity rifle magazines, mandating universal background checks and expanding red flag laws.
While Geller on Tuesday told reporters he personally supports an assault weapons ban, he said his Special Session call is tailored to include “commonsense” legislation supported by the majority of Floridians and Americans and that potentially has bipartisan support.
After a requisite 20% of lawmakers indicated initial support for a Special Session, the Department of State began polling all members of the Legislature on Monday. Three-fifths of each chamber must vote “yes” by 3 p.m. Friday to compel the Legislature to a Special Session.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the tally stood at 13-5 in favor in the Senate and 39-5 in favor in the House. However, only 10 Republicans had voted, and all 10 voted “no.”
“Honestly, it seems like right now Republicans are really trying to ignore it as much as possible,” Eskamani said. “They’re putting their head in the sand, which is really disappointing.”
Geller is surprised it hasn’t picked up any Republican support, he added.
“I wrote it for them. Please help, guys,” Geller said.
The current red flag law, passed in the wake of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, has become a national model adopted by other states. Florida’s Republican U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are advocating for the legislation at the federal level. Rubio has repeatedly filed the Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act since 2018, doing so most recently in 2021.
“Is Senator Rubio a leftist who wants to come after the Second Amendment?” Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith asked Florida Politics.
As Florida Democratic lawmakers held a news conference to promote the Special Session on Tuesday, actor and Uvalde native Matthew McConaughey gave an impassioned plea for gun reform during a White House news briefing. He shared stories of the 19 students who, along with two teachers, were killed at Robb Elementary School two weeks ago. Seventeen others were shot in the massacre.
Earlier in May in Buffalo, 10 Black people were killed at a supermarket during an attack livestreamed by the shooter. Three others were injured.
Sunday will mark six years since the Pulse shooting.
If successful, the gun violence Special Session would be the third this year and the fifth this term. The previous Special Sessions — with topics including redistricting, Disney and property insurance — have been called at DeSantis’ behest.
DeSantis, who has said he would not have signed the post-Parkland bill like Scott did when he was Governor, has advocated for constitutional carry legislation in recent months. Such a law would remove the need for Floridians to acquire a permit to carry an open or concealed firearm.
On Friday, in his first comments about gun violence following the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings DeSantis said law enforcement must be held accountable, noting reports that officers stood by at Robb Elementary while the shooting was underway. He also expressed his plan to follow recommendations from the MSD High School Public Safety Commission, which he carried out by signing legislation earlier Tuesday to update the MSD High School Public Safety Act.
However, DeSantis has not mentioned his constitutional carry proposal since the recent shootings.
“I’m not surprised that he would lie and be a demagogue about the issue of gun violence prevention, and I’m not surprised that he’s dodging questions about his extreme proposal for permitless carry,” Smith said. “It’s par for the course.”