As the clock struck 3 p.m. on Friday, Democratic lawmakers’ hopes for a Special Session on gun violence ran out after the deadline to find the votes came and went without support from a single Republican.
Rep. Joe Geller, a Broward County Democrat who is serving his last months in the House, spearheaded the effort as one of his last acts as a lawmaker. While the call received resounding support from Democrats, only 19 members of the Republican majority voted on the call, all in opposition.
The call for a Special Session came following a rash of prominent shootings across the country, including at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
“We felt as if what we were asking to have a discussion about were things that are wildly popular across the board throughout the state of Florida, and really the entire nation,” House Democratic Leader Evan Jenne told reporters Friday afternoon. “Unfortunately, those requests fell on deaf ears.”
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 was limited to regulating high-capacity rifle magazines, mandating universal background checks and expanding red flag laws.
Rep. Dan Daley, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School graduate and Democrat who was a Coral Springs City Commissioner during the shooting there, said the Special Session call put Republicans on record against “low-hanging fruit.”
“This has happened so many times since Parkland, and we swore that that was going to be the last time,” Daley said. “You hear all the people on this call. We’re ready. We’re ready to take action.”
After a requisite 20% of lawmakers indicated initial support for a Special Session, the Department of State and Secretary Cord Byrd began polling all members of the Legislature on Monday. Three-fifths of each chamber had to vote “yes” by 3 p.m. Friday to compel the Legislature to a Special Session.
By the deadline, the tally stood at 16-5 in favor in the Senate and 41-14 in favor in the House. However, Democrats needed to find 24 votes in the Senate and 71 votes in the House, which they couldn’t do without support from a significant contingent of Republicans.
Most lawmakers didn’t answer the poll.
“At least cast a vote. Don’t just ignore it and do nothing,” Geller said.
Despite putting forward what they believed were bipartisan measures, Democrats had already considered the Special Session call a longshot, with Jenne calling it a “Hail Mary.” But the dagger seemingly came Wednesday, when Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized Democrats as “leftists” who were going after the Second Amendment with their slate of proposals.
“These are the tired old talking points that we hear repeatedly. It’s an insult to everyone to use these ridiculous talking points,” said Lantana Democratic Sen. Lori Berman, who helped bring Florida’s red flag law.
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.
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.
“We have folks saying enough is enough,” St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Michele Rayner said Friday. “I don’t know how many more babies we need to see get killed. I don’t know how many more people can’t go to the grocery store.”
Sunday will mark six years since the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, when an assailant killed 49 and wounded 53 others at the gay nightclub in 2016.
“Instead of being worried about drag queens and things that don’t matter, we ought to be worried about the business of our people, keeping our children safe, keeping our community safe, keeping our elderly safe,” Rayner said, referring to DeSantis and Republicans’ support for keeping children away from drag shows. “You ought to be able to go worship and not think you’re going to get gunned down.”
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.
DeSantis, who has said he would not have signed the post-Parkland bill like Scott did when he was Governor, has advocated for permitless carry legislation in recent months, vowing to pass such a proposal before he leaves office. Such a law, dubbed “constitutional carry” by advocates, would remove the need for Floridians to acquire a permit to carry an open or concealed handgun.
Incoming House Speaker Paul Renner, a Palm City Republican, also supports permitless carry. A video published Tuesday showed Renner telling a supporter he wants to put constitutional carry to a vote in the House but would need more support in the Senate.
Renner confirmed the authenticity of the video and the sentiment to the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau but said he did not know he was being recorded. The video was recorded at an event in Ocala after the Buffalo shooting but before the Uvalde shooting.
Already, Democrats are calling out the Republican majority for the video.
“Incoming House leadership on the Republican side wants to run a bill next Session doing what the Governor wants as it relates to constitutional carry,” Daley said. “Folks, read the room. Read the room. (There’s been) 254 mass shootings in this year alone, and you think the answer is constitutional carry? Read the room.”
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June 11, 2022 at 11:25 am
Why this headline? It would seem more appropriate/accurate and objective to have titled it:
Gun Violence Special Session Request Fails – Dems Vote for, GOP & DeSantis Vote Against or Don’t Vote
OR If that’s too long then just:
Gun Violence Special Session Request Fails
Then maybe more people will read the article.
June 11, 2022 at 9:53 pm
Any politician who votes to infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms should be tarred and feathered.
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