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Gun proposal draws fire from DeSantis, Oliva

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A day after a committee unanimously signed off on one of Senate President Bill Galvano’s top priorities, Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Jose Oliva expressed skepticism Tuesday about the sweeping gun-control measure.

The proposal (SB 7028) 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,” among other things.

The measure would also expand on the state’s “red-flag law,” which was included in a wide-ranging law passed shortly after the Feb. 14, 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

DeSantis appeared skeptical of the proposal to close the gun-show “loophole” by requiring background checks and a three-day waiting period for firearms sold at gun shows, saying screenings are already being performed by “anyone selling firearms at any of those tables.”

“So, when they say that to me, I don’t really know what it is. I know there are talking points, but the fact of the matter is that anyone who is selling firearms is going to have to do background checks, unless it’s just a private sale. But you’re not going to have a table at a gun show on a private sale,” the Republican governor told reporters Tuesday.

Oliva seemed even more dubious, telling reporters that the House is “always very careful when we in any way start to infringe on those things that people consider their constitutional rights.”

“If you talked to the sheriffs around the state, they will tell you that our red-flag laws that we passed before they were even named red-flag laws after Parkland have already saved lives. These are the areas that we have to be looking to. There is no proof that a person's ability to get a weapon affects their ability to use it. And so we have to be very careful when we once again look to trample on people's constitutional rights,” Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said.

Despite the opposition from his GOP colleagues, Galvano stood by his plan as the 60-day legislative session started Tuesday.

“It’s important that we look at these issues in their totality. That’s what we set out to do. That’s what I told the people of Florida that we would do. And certainly, there is a balance, and there is a realistic anticipation of outcome that comes into play. But I think the committee’s been doing good work and I’m going to continue to support it,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, said.

When asked about the difficulty in reaching a compromise on the always-thorny issue of guns, given the positions expressed by Oliva and DeSantis, Galvano acknowledged that “a give and take” exchange of ideas is part of the legislative process.

“And it’s incumbent upon the sponsors of bills and members of bodies to explain and to make the correct arguments,” Galvano said. “If you would have said to me three years ago that we were going to do what we did two years ago in the wake of Parkland, I would have said, boy, that’s going to be a really difficult lift in the Legislature I’ve lived in for many, many years.”

The 2018 law -- which, in addition to the red-flag issue, raised the age to purchase “long” guns, such as rifles, from 18 to 21 and outlawed “bump” stocks --- was the first gun-control legislation approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature in decades.

But the schism among GOP leaders over this year’s measure indicates that any proposals that could be frowned on by gun-rights proponents will face serious pushback.

Before the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee approved the bill Monday, National Rifle Association Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer castigated the measure, which would also impose new requirements for private gun sales.

The measure contains “the worst universal background check language I have ever seen,” Hammer, a former national president of the NRA, told the Senate panel.

“It appears to be an actual attempt to ban private sales through red tape and fear,” she said, labeling the proposal “gun control on steroids.”

News Service staff writers Ana Ceballos and Christine Sexton contributed to this report.


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