Florida: Two Democratic gun regulation bills head to Subcommittee by Charles Yeganian

Two pieces of legislation that LEAP Forward is tracking have been given subcommittee assignments in the Florida state House of Representatives.

HB 683 and HB 709 are both Democratic-sponsored bills filed earlier this month and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. Both have now been passed off to the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, where Republicans enjoy a 9-4 majority.

HB 683, by Rep. James Bush, would prohibit the open carry or licensed concealed carry of a firearm into a theater or performing arts center.

HB 709, by Rep. Emily Slosberg, removes a residential density provision from the crime of discharging a firearm in a neighborhood.

It is unclear whether these bills will get a hearing. LEAP Forward is scoring support for both pieces of legislation

LEAPer Cindy Polo's gun-free zone legislation faces uncertain future in a still-polarized Florida by Charles Yeganian

The shooting drove many Democrats to run for office for the first time, including Rep. Cindy Polo of Miramar, who said her fellow freshman lawmakers are dedicated to getting something done.

“This time last year there was no way I thought I’d ever run for office, let alone be here shortly right before the anniversary of parkland,” Polo said. “The real way to honor the families that are coping with this loss and those victims that we have lost, whether it’s in a nightclub or in a school or in the streets of many of our communities, that instead of just thoughts and prayers we put it into action.”

Polo is sponsoring HB 197, which would ban firearms in child care facilities. Other Democratic bills would tighten concealed carry license requirements, add requirements to safe storage laws, impose universal background checks for all gun sales and ban assault weapons.

Polo has also signed onto HB 455, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. LEAP Forward is grading both bills and scoring support.

Students Sound Off In Support of Florida Assault Weapons Bill by Charles Yeganian

Andrew Thompson, a graduating senior in interdisciplinary studies at Florida A&M, provided his point of view on the matter.

“I believe that the Second Amendment is worshipped and honestly manipulated for the sake of how much money it can bring a lot of companies,” Thompson said. “I’m a firm believer in arming yourself, but there should be more restrictions and additional levels of clearance to own an assault weapon or even make them purchasable.”

Alex Williams, a junior theatre major, said he favors a ban on assault weapons.

“I think this bill would definitely be beneficial. It’s going to save lives and make the world a safer place,” Williams said “It’ll prevent hate crimes. As far as it violating the Second Amendment, it won’t be the first time. We as a country need to come together and not only think for ourselves, but others too.”

The assault weapons bill, HB 455 is cosponsored by LEAPers Cindy Polo and Anna Eskamani. LEAP Forward is grading action on the legislation and scoring support.

Eskamani, Florida Dems Push Assault Weapons Ban by Charles Yeganian

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Sen. Gary Farmer have filed legislation in Florida to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

From Monivette Cordiero, Orlando Weekly:

While both lawmakers point out polls showing a majority of Floridians supporting an assault weapons ban, the issue remains extremely divisive. Earlier this week, Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, was sexually harassed and berated by online commenters on social media for posting a photo of herself supporting a 2020 constitutional amendment banning assault weapons.  

Eskamani has signed up to be a co-sponsor of Smith's bill. 

"We can’t stand by as more people die," she said on Twitter. "It's time to be bold." 

LEAP Forward endorsed Eskamani’s 2018 campaign. I thank her for her advocacy on this issue and will be grading HB 455 and scoring support.

Controversial Florida Republican Pushes Guns on Campus by Charles Yeganian

A freshman legislator who made a name for himself in Lake County by embracing Confederate memorials has fired the opening salvo in the 2019 campus carry debate.

In the first batch of bills he filed for the March session, State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Clermont, has signaled his intention to allow college and university students to carry guns into the classroom.

“Florida’s law-abiding concealed weapon permit holders should be treated the same way on a campus of higher education as any other place,” said Sabatini. “Following our state’s smart and pro-active idea last year allowing highly trained employees to serve as guardians at schools, supported by the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, it’s a natural corollary to begin allowing good people to arm themselves on college campuses to prevent the next mass shooter.”

LEAP Forward is grading Sabatini’s bill - HB 6007 - and scoring opposition.

Florida Republicans Propose "Campus Carry" by Charles Yeganian

In a move that could refuel a long-running debate, a House Republican on Thursday proposed a measure that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on college and university campuses.

Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, filed the bill (HB 6007) for consideration during the 2019 legislative session, which starts March 5.

Under current law, people are barred from carrying guns on college and university campuses.

LEAP Forward is tracking HB 6007 and will be grading action on the bill.

Florida's Concealed Carry Permitting System is a Mess by Charles Yeganian

Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida reported on the results of an audit of Florida’s Concealed Carry permitting, currently being conducted by the Department of Agriculture:

In the audit released Wednesday, [state Auditor General Sherrill] Norman noted that managers in the division responsible for issuing the licenses indicated their process was to verbally reprimand a contracted employee who had been the subject of a “management report” and to terminate the contracted employee for a second offense.

But that wasn’t the agency’s practice, according to the report.

In some cases, it took more than two months for the contracted employees to be fired, the auditors found.

“Our examination of the 15 selected management reports found that 3 contracted employees appeared on management reports flagging issues with the processing of 9 approved concealed weapon license applications,” the report states. “The reported issues included, for example, a contracted employee’s failure to review the applicant’s State and National criminal history information.”

Sen. Lauren Book (D) has filed legislation that would take the permitting process out of the Department of Agriculture and reassign it to the Department of Law Enforcement. The bill, SB 108, has been added to LEAP Forward’s database and I will be grading action in support of this legislation.

Backflipping Substitute Teacher Drops Gun on Florida Playground by Charles Yeganian

From Josh Rojas, Bay News 9:

The mother of an Anona Elementary School student in Largo said her daughter was just a few feet away from a substitute teacher when a loaded gun fell out of his waistband onto the playground on Tuesday. 

“He was teaching us how to do a flip and when he demonstrated it all you see is a gun pop out of his pocket,” Imogen [Ference, 8] said. “He said, ‘shhh, don’t tell anyone’ and then he dropped down on the ground and picked it back up and put it back in his pants.”

This isn’t even the first time someone doing a backflip has lost a gun this year, but unlike that occasion, fortunately nobody was hurt this time. This news comes on the same day the city of Pittsburgh bucked a recent trend by voting not to allow armed officers in schools.