Florida gun bills fail to catch fire as time grows short in 2020 legislative session
Time is beginning to run out for a score of gun bills languishing in committees as the Legislature begins week No. 8 of a nine-week legislative session.
Nearly three dozen proposals related to gun rights are stuck in review panels that will not meet again this year.
Just three others remain viable and could make it out of committee — but because of the number of bills still waiting to be heard, they may not get introduced to the House and Senate floors.
"This session has been a unique hurry-up-and-wait experience when you look at the time we've spent on the floor," said Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, speaking about the session in general while talking about gun bills.
"We are either in for a lot of marathon sessions the next two weeks, or I don't think a lot of legislation gets passed," he added. "We approve the budget, a couple of policy changes and then go home."
Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said she wouldn't be surprised to see no changes in the state's gun laws this session.
"At this point, it's going to be an uphill battle because our Speaker has made it clear he doesn't align with the Senate priorities," Eskamani said.
A proposal to close the so-called gun show loophole for background checks died this week, according to a leading gun control group.
Moms Demand Action conceded defeat after Senate President Bill Galvano told reporters this week the bill (SB 7028) would not make it to the Senate floor and was done for the year.
The measure, which imposed background checks and a three-day waiting period on most sales of firearms, excited gun control advocates and alarmed Second Amendment rights supporters after it unanimously cleared its first committee in January.
But Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker José Oliva expressed skepticism about it.
And that led Galvano, R-Bradenton, to foreshadow what was to come.
"It’s difficult even within the Chamber but it’s even more difficult across the way from the plaza level,” said Galvano, referring to the also GOP-controlled but even more conservative Florida House.
The bill stalled, and in discussion with reporters Galvano pronounced it done for the year.
Kate Kile, a volunteer with the Tallahassee chapter of Moms Demand Action, agrees with Grant and Eskamani that it is unlikely that any new gun control measures will be approved with just two weeks left in session.
Moms Demand Action had organized a group of 400 volunteers to lobby lawmakers at the Capitol in January in support of SB 7028. They were encouraged when Galvano included the proposal among his priorities and now say they are disappointed they were unable to capitalize on that momentum and get the proposal approved.
“But we take a long view of this issue – it’s complicated and is not going to be solved overnight,” said Kile, adding that the group intends to stay engaged on the issue.
“Time will tell where the Republican Party will move on this issue. I think you are starting to see some division within the party,” Kile said of the Legislature's GOP majority.
The bill also included a background check on buyers and a three-day waiting period for firearms sold at a gun show, and set aside $5 million for violence prevention.
While DeSantis and Oliva questioned whether the legislation was needed, an NRA spokesperson called it both “political eyewash” and “gun control on steroids.”
It was among the more than 30 bills filed for the session that either increased regulations or expanded rights to carry a firearm.
But, with just 10 meeting days left, only three proposals remain standing.
One of those (SB 728), prohibiting a verbal threat to cause harm with a firearm, appears to have the best chance of clearing both the House and Senate.
If a bill hasn’t advanced to an appropriations or rules committee by week eight it is unlikely to be heard on the House or Senate floors — effectively killing it.
Here’s what is technically still alive in the final two weeks:
SB 728/HB 311 – The Verbal Threat Prohibition
The proposal makes it a third-degree felony to threaten the use of a firearm to do bodily harm. HB 311 has cleared all committees and heads to the House floor. SB 728's final committee stop is Appropriations on March 3.
HB 183/SB 1524 Prohibited Places for Weapons and Firearms
The measure repeals the ban on local elected officials carrying concealed weapons to public meetings. The House bill cleared all committees and waits to be heard on the floor. The Senate proposal was never heard in committee.
HB 1437 Safety of Religious Institutions
The bill has cleared all three committee stops and waits to be scheduled for floor debate. It allows people to carry concealed weapons at religious institutions that share properties with schools. There is no Senate companion.
Writer James Call can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @CallTallahassee.
This story originally published to tallahassee.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.