Effort to call special session on gun control in Florida fails

Florida lawmakers overwhelmingly reject special session

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature will not return to the Capitol this year for a special session on guns. 

Florida Democrats had hoped to call lawmakers back to talk about stronger background checks and red flag laws.

"We would like to strengthen those laws and allow families to also petition the courts in addition to law enforcement," said Kate Kyle, with Moms Demand Action.

With a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline for casting votes, the Republican-controlled Legislature overwhelmingly rejected a Democratic proposal to hold a special session to address gun violence. The Senate rejected the idea by a 20-14 margin, while the House turned it down by a 68-38 margin, according to a tally released Tuesday evening by the Florida Department of State. The votes were almost along straight party lines, with only three Democrats crossing over to oppose the proposed special session. Those Democrats were Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee; Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando; and Rep. Al Jacquet, D-Riviera Beach, according to the Department of State.

House Democrats called for the special session in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this month but were quickly opposed by Republicans leaders in both chambers. Democrats needed 72 of 120 votes in the House and 24 of 40 votes in the Senate to force a special session. 

The failure came as no surprise to National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer.

"They simply wanted to create an opportunity for political grandstanding," Hammer said. 

So the state's gun control advocates are shifting their attention to Washington. Ads set to appear in the Fort Meyers and Miami markets target U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, urging the two Florida Republicans to support tougher background checks and red flag laws.

The ads are part of a $350,000 national television campaign backed by the group Everytown for Gun Safety.

But U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, R-District 2, is skeptical Washington is in a position to act on gun legislation. Dunn said he believes it's not the laws that are broken, but enforcement.

"We already have laws that say this guy shouldn't own guns, this guy needs to be Baker Acted, and it isn't even being done," Dunn said. "So we don't have a measurable place to start with the laws that we actually have on the books."

While gun control advocates hope to change the minds of Florida's members of Congress, state Democrats still plan to file gun control legislation for the regular session in January and the Senate president has promised a thorough discussion.