JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The first major legislation on gun safety sailed through congress and was sent to President Joe Biden on the day marking one month since the deadly mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, voted against the bill, named the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act,” despite, as governor of Florida, signing a sweeping gun reform bill following the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The bill, crafted by senators from both parties, would incrementally toughen requirements for young people to buy guns, deny firearms from more domestic abusers and help local authorities temporarily take weapons from people judged to be dangerous. Most of its $13 billion cost would go to bolster mental health programs and for schools, which have been targeted in Newtown, Connecticut; Parkland, and many other infamous mass shootings.
“I think this is a monumental moment for our nation,” said Katie Hathaway, a volunteer with the Northeast Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action. “After decades of inaction by our Senate, we have seen them take life-saving, meaningful action and we know once this bill is signed into law, it’s going to save lives.”
Hathaway said she was frustrated with the votes of Florida’s Republican delegation, Scott’s in particular.
“Personally, I think it’s reprehensible that our senators in Florida did not vote for this, especially Senator Scott,” Hathaway said. “For him to deny the nation the same protections that he signed into law four years ago for Florida. It just shows that he and Senator Rubio are still beholden to the gun lobby.”
On Thursday, following the Senate vote, Scott released a defense of the decision. Ironically, in a Congress stereotypically gridlocked, especially on polarizing topics, Scott took issue with the speed at which the bill came together.
“Over the last two weeks, I’ve seen many people compare the bill being considered in the Senate to what we did in Florida.” the statement said. “These bills are not the same at all. One was the product of a collaborative, well-defined and transparent process. The other was the result of secret backroom dealings that did not include input from the majority of Republican members, committee hearings, nor opportunities for amendments, giving members barely an hour to read the bill before we were asked to vote on it.”
The bill also includes a provision allowing those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence charges to have their gun rights restored if they maintain a spotless criminal record for five years.
Though the provision carries certain exceptions for victims’ parents, guardians or cohabitants, Scott still called the provision “soft on crime.”
“People who have been accused, tried and convicted of beating their significant other would automatically get their gun rights back after just five years,” Scott said. “I will not support soft-on-crime policies like this.”
The bill also includes a “red flag” provision, which allows courts to confiscate guns from people who show signs that they pose a danger to themselves or others.
While Scott signed the red flag provision into law as governor in 2018, he accused Congress’ version of not providing law-abiding citizens enough protection from being falsely accused.
“Ironclad due process protections are essential to protecting the constitutional rights of Americans and we can never compromise on that,” Scott said in a statement. Still, arguments that a red flag law violates a citizen’s due process has been struck down in court rulings.
Biden has voiced his support for the bill, which he is widely expected to sign in the coming days.