Groups lobby for gun reform in Tallahassee

Reform advocates support one bill, oppose 3 others

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gun control supporters protested Monday on the steps of the Florida Capitol.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, now a Democratic candidate for governor, led a rally of more than 1,000 people, calling for a ban on assault rifles and criticizing the National Rifle Association for its proposal to arm teachers.

"We know that is dumb, dumb, dumb," Levin said to cheers and applause from the crowd that gathered despite the heavy rain.

Protesters, who had been bused in from around the state, wore orange T-shirts that said #GunReformNow.

Later, a state Senate committee approved a bill Monday to raise the age for buying a gun from 18 to 21 and imposing a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases. The bill also would allow teachers to carry guns in schools if their school district approves and the teachers undergo law enforcement training and are deputized by the local sheriff's office. About 300 gun safety advocates packed the room and dozens pleaded with senators to include an assault weapons ban in the bill. That idea was rejected on a 6-7 vote.

Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky told the Senate Rules Committee that many in her community wanted more than the bill now being considered, but it least it is more than what the state currently has.

"I can tell you from my friends who've just buried their children, they want action. If it's not perfect, it's not perfect, but make it a first step in a longer discussion. Something has to change," she said. "We all want to make sure this never happens again."

Monday was the second wave of protests in Tallahassee. Last week, thousands of people rallied at the state Capitol.

WATCH: Rally in Tallahassee pushes for gun reform

The gun control demonstrations were sparked by the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14.

Students and teachers arrive to board busses to head to Tallahassee for gun reform rally.
Students and teachers arrive to board busses to head to Tallahassee for gun reform rally.

Busloads of protesters from Jacksonville were among those who descended on Tallahassee for the rally. Students and faculty members from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School also made the trip.

Joslyn Barios, a former Duval County teacher, boarded a bus at Regency Square just after 6 a.m.

"If assault weapons are so deadly that police officers and trained professionals find them challenging to face alone, then we need to control them, keep them out of schools," Barios said.

Other groups left early Monday from the St. Augustine Amphitheatre and the Oaks Mall in Gainesville.

Statewide, there were more than a dozen pickup locations; many of the buses were full so organizers limited seating to people who had preregistered for the trip. Others provided their own transportation to Tallahassee.

The Women’s March Florida and Miami-Dade Democrats were among the organizations leading the group of protesters.

According to the group, there are four different bills it is interested in. The bill the protesters support, HB 219/SB196, would prohibit the sale, transfer or possession of assault weapons or large-capacity magazines.

There are three different bills the group opposes. The first, HB 553/SB 740, is a bill that the group claims is a background check loophole for concealed carry permit applicants. The group said the bill allows someone to obtain a concealed carry permit if their background check is not completed within 90 days.

The second bill, HB 621/ SB1236, allows school districts to designate certain individuals to carry concealed weapons on school property. The group said that, according to the bill, individuals must receive active shooter training and complete a school safety program and firearm proficiency training, but do not have to be law enforcement officers. It also says parents will have no say in who the designees are. 

The third bill the group opposes, HB1419/SB 1048, allows guns on property owned, rented or leased by a religious institution even if the property is in an area where concealed carry is not normally permitted under current law. The group’s website said the Senate version of that bo;; has been amended in several ways, including to clarify that, if the religious institution is meeting on property shared with a school, guns may only be carried during nonschool hours. The amendment also excludes college campuses.

About the Author: