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A year post-Pulse, nothing has changed about Florida’s gun laws

It’s been a year since the mass shooting that killed 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, unleashing a torrent of talk about gun control in Florida and fueling a bunch of new legislation.

365 days later, during which another mass shooting killed five at Ft. Lauderdale Airport, not a single bill limiting gun access became law. (Although only one effort to expand gun rights passed of several).

Looks like Florida has stayed the same, despite two tragedies at the hand of gunmen.

Gun Control Policy that didn’t pass:

  • Mental health screenings: This policy change would have required anyone who wanted to purchase a gun to undergo mental health screenings and be declared “competent” by a medical professional before being able to make the purchase. It was proposed by Miami’s Rep. Nicholas Duran in the House and Sen. Daphne Campbell. Both versions of the bill died in committee and subcommittee meetings on May 5.
  • Assault weapons ban: Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith tried to ban the sale of assault weapons or high-capacity magazines that would enable assault weapon capabilities in firearms (Omar Mateen shot up Pulse with an AR-15 style rifle). People owning assault weapons before a certain date would have needed certificates proving this, and there would have been increased criminal penalties for crimes committed with assault weapons. None of this is in place however, because both versions of the bill died in committee and subcommittee in early May.
  • Universal background checks: Sen. Gary Farmer partnered with Rep. Bruce Antone this time to try and pass this bill that would have required two non-licensed people trying to complete a gun sale, to go through a licensed dealer for the transaction. The bills died May 5 in meetings.
  • Firearm purchases: Sen. Randolph Bracy tried getting this bill passed that would have would have required the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to ask gun buyers about any previous criminal history and flag local law enforcement if someone’s answers were not approved. This one also died on May 5.
  • Guns banned from theaters: Miami Gardens Democrat Sen. Oscar Braynon, tried to ban the carrying of concealed weapons in theaters and performing arts centers. The bill was killed in committee on May 5, just like the rest.

Gun rights expansion that was blocked:

  • Airport Carry: Would have made it legal for any permit-holding gun owner to openly carry guns in any area of an airport. Senator Greg Steube filed the bill on Feb. 1, just a few weeks after the Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooting on Jan. 6 that left five people dead in the baggage claim area. Steube and Rep. Jake Raburn who filed the House version of the bill,  argued the shooting bolstered the case for the necessity of guns in airports. It died in committees and subcommittees in early May.
  • Campus Carry: Sen. Greg Steube and Rep. Scott Plakon also filed the guns on campus bill that would have ended the ban on concealed carry on public university campuses. Steube’s Senate version of the bill specified guns would not be allowed at athletic events or events not related to firearms. Both versions died in committee meetings.
  • Open Carry: Sen. Greg Steube filed this bill that would have allowed people with concealed-carry permits to be able to openly carry guns in places that they can now carry concealed. It died in a committee meeting.
  • Eliminating gun-free zones: Florida has 15 of these designated spots where permit-holding gun owners cannot have their weapons – places like seaports, schools, and pharmacies. Sen. Dennis Baxley proposed eliminating these restricted areas, but the House and Senate versions of the bill died in committee and subcommittee.
  • Guns in government meetings and career centers: Rep. Scott Plakon proposed this bill that had the goal of ending the ban on open carry in government meetings and career centers.
  • Public records exemption for assault weapons: This proposed bill by Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith would have kept off of public record the identities of anyone who has a certificate for owning an assault weapon. It never made it to a vote and died in a meeting in May.

Gun expansion that WAS passed:

  • Redefining Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law: This was officially approved by Gov. Rick Scott on June 9.Basically it removes the requirement that you first have to be attacked to attack someone if they’re on your property and you think they present a threat. They don’t have to be actively attacking to warrant use of force. It goes into effect on July 1.
  • Jeff Chang

    What would an assualt weapon ban do?

    An assault weapon is just a cosmetic feature on a firearm to provide greater ergonomics.

  • Alex Rosales

    Hi Caitie, this is a good overview of current gun-related legislation, thanks for this.

    However, a note on the mental health screenings component of this discussion. It would not necessarily be logical or correct to pass legislation based on the myth that folks with mental illness are more likely to be violent toward other people. Multiple studies have confirmed that the link between mental illness and mass shootings just isn’t there: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/06/untangling-gun-violence-from-mental-illness/485906/

    It would be bad policy to tie those two things together and only serves to perpetuate the (false) notion that persons with mental illness pose a violent risk to society since the scenario that poses more of a threat in society is violence committed against persons with mental illness or suicide.

    • Caitie Switalski

      Thank you for this contribution to the conversation, Alex! That’s definitely a good point, and I believe it adds to the important points being made.