TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Over the objections of the National Rifle Association, a Senate panel Monday unanimously signed off on a far-reaching measure that would close the gun-show “loophole,” create a record-keeping system for private gun sales and set aside $5 million to establish a “statewide strategy for violence prevention.”
The proposal (SB 7028) is a priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, as evidenced by the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee’s consideration and passage of the measure the day before the 2020 legislative session begins.
The sweeping legislation would require background checks and a three-day waiting period for firearms sold “on property to which the public has the right of access,” such as “a flea market, a gun show, or a firearm exhibit.”
The measure would also mandate that guns be securely stored in households and other places where minors under age 18 --- up from the current threshold of 16 --- could have access to the weapons.
The bill also would create a new section of law that would require guns to be stored to prevent access “by a person of unsound mind.”
And the proposal would impose new requirements for private gun sales. Under the measure, individuals who sell guns to other people would be required to fill out a form that would include the name, date of birth and identification information of the purchaser. The affidavit, which would include background questions aimed at ensuring the purchaser is eligible to buy a gun, would have to be notarized.
The measure contains “the worst universal background check language I have ever seen,” Marion Hammer, the NRA’s Florida lobbyist and a former president of the national gun-rights organization, told the Senate panel.
“It appears to be an actual attempt to ban private sales through red tape and fear,” she said. “Asking average citizens to create what amounts to a government form and get it notarized is ridiculous.”
The legislation is “nothing less than gun control on steroids,” Hammer said.
But committee Chairman Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, said the legislation “just makes sense.”
The Senate’s proposal comes as mass shootings in Florida and throughout the nation continue to rise. At least 81 people have died in mass shootings scattered throughout Florida over the past three years.
In 2018, the Legislature for the first time in decades passed a handful of gun-control measures after a massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 students and faculty members and injured 17 others.
Lee, a former Senate president, said he empathized with gun owners who are exercising their Second Amendment rights.
“I know that you don’t see NRA members in the headlines of these mass shootings,” he told reporters following Monday’s meeting. “But we have a job to do. We can’t just sit by idly while our children are killing children and pretend this isn’t happening.”
While the Senate measure is a Galvano priority, it lacks a companion measure in the House. Lee said House leaders are "well aware we're working on this."
"Frankly, a lot of this is going to happen president-to-speaker and work down from there. But they’re very well aware that this is a priority for the president," he said.
Lee’s committee also signed off on a resolution condemning white nationalism and white supremacy “as hateful, dangerous, and morally corrupt and affirming that such philosophies are contradictory to the values that define the people of Florida.”
The resolution lists a number of mass shootings that targeted Jewish and African-American worshippers.
But David Caulkett, a Pompano Beach man who identified himself as belonging to the group “Floridians for Immigration Enforcement,” called the proposal racist.
“This resolution is mostly an opportunity for liberals to smear conservatives,” Caulkett told the panel.
But Jeff Binkley, whose daughter Maura was killed when a gunman opened fire at a Tallahassee yoga studio last year, said he was “heartened” by the committee’s direction. Gunman Scott Beierle, who also killed a Florida State University professor before shooting himself, had a long history of hating women.
The man who shot his daughter “was a member of the misogynist, incel (involuntary celibacy) subculture,” Binkley told the committee. The yoga studio victims “were selected and targeted for no other reason than being women,” he said.
“There are a number of dangerous hate groups that pose a threat to the public safety, to the safety of each of us,” Binkley added.
“These groups may be racially motivated, religiously motivated, motivated around gender,” he said. “But violent hate groups all undermine society and its basic values in the same way.”