3 years after Parkland, lawmakers mixed on Florida’s gun laws

17 people were killed in the Valentine’s Day 2018 school shooting

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Sunday will mark three years since the Parkland High School mass shooting that left 17 students and staff dead.

Survivors and family members of those killed joined with lawmakers to highlight their efforts to push for tighter gun control in the 2021 legislative session Monday, but early indications suggest the Legislature is more likely to do just the opposite.

Manuel Oliver’s son, Joaquin, was one of the 17 killed in the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Oliver, who says her son was also her best friend, is still waiting for lawmakers to take action.

“We didn’t do it after Orlando. We didn’t do it after Vegas. We didn’t do it after Parkland,” Oliver said.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith began his legislative push to ban assault-style weapons five years ago, when 49 people were murdered in the mass shooting at Pulse Night Club in Orlando.

Smith said the goal is to “make sure that military-grade weapons don’t fall into the hands of civilians.”

But in the five years since it was filed, the bill has never received a single hearing. And it’s unlikely things will change this year.

Instead, legislators appear more likely to relax some gun laws. For instance, State Sen. Dennis Baxley is co-sponsoring a bill that would allow Floridians to carry concealed firearms into places of worship such as churches, synagogues and mosques.

“It’s foundational that you could protect yourself and your family and others from harm,” Baxley said.

The measure backed by Baxley has already made it past one committee, but Smith isn’t giving up hope for change.

“We shouldn’t wait for another act of violence for there to be action taken,” Smith said.

A citizen initiative that would have put the question of banning assault weapons before voters was struck down by the State Supreme Court last year because the court called it misleading. Organizers have yet to file a clearer alternative amendment.

After the Parkland shooting, the Legislature increased the age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21.

The same legislation also allowed trained school staff to possess firearms on school grounds. The next year, classroom teachers were added to the list of those who could be armed on campus.