With the nation reeling from mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, one Florida lawmaker -- known for sponsoring controversial bills -- has pre-filed 2020 legislation seeking to do away with “red flag” gun control measures adopted in the wake of the Valentine’s Day Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in 2018.
Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, pre-filed House Bill 6003 on Friday. For the legislative session beginning Jan. 14. He filed a similar bill during the 2019 legislative session that did not get a committee hearing.
The post-Parkland red flag laws “infringe on our Constitution. They are a clear violation,” Hill told Florida Politics’ Scott Powers, noting he submitted the bill for drafting more than two weeks ago, before the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
Senate Bill 7026, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, was a quickly-assembled $400 million response to the Parkland Valentine’s Day school shooting that included several gun-control measures that previously would have have been inconceivable in the “Gunshine State.”
SB 7026 raised the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21; requires a 3-day waiting period to buy firearms; bans “bump stocks;” a three-day waiting period for gun purchases; and gives greater authority for law enforcement to seize weapons under “red flag” laws.
Hill’s proposed HB 6003 essentially replicates the 16 pages of gun control measures in SB 7026 but deletes the 21-year minimum age restriction, the mandatory 16-hour hunter safety course requirement for new gun owners, the ban on bump stocks and its entire section relating to the seizure of firearms from those undergoing “involuntary examination” by court order.
Hill told Florida Politics that Republicans, including President Donald Trump, who say they support strengthening “red flag” laws to allow judges to order seizure of firearms from those identified as mentally unstable or threatening is a knee-jerk reaction that won’t gain traction once emotions subside.
“In terms of President Trump wanting to look at, perhaps strengthening the red flag laws, which, if you call them what they are, they’re gun confiscation laws. I support President Trump 100 percent. I’ll have to say I hope he gets some further advice on this and not try to strengthen the red flag laws, because I believe they’re unconstitutional,” Hill told Florida Politics. “It goes against our Second Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and the 14th Amendment.
Hill, elected in 2018 after SB 7026 was adopted, said any “red flag” provision that allows law enforcement to go to court to ask a judge to temporarily seize firearms from someone “goes too far.”
A former Air Force officer, Hill said he is concerned that veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome might be unwilling to seek mental health treatment because they fear “red flag” laws could be used to confiscate their guns or bar them from purchasing firearms.
He said the bump stock provision in SB 7026 needs to be clarified and that the age requirement is unfair to veterans old enough to fight for their country but not enjoy the benefits of its Constitution.
Hill, who was president of the Northwest Florida Tea Party movement from 2010-13, first served in the House between 2014-16.
After being defeated in a 2016 Senate bid, he was re-elected to the House in 2018 and has been a frequent source of bipartisan criticism for his comments and proposed bills ever since.
An Evangelical Christian, Hill has called Islam a cult that “worships the demon god of the crescent moon,” proposed moving Donald Trump's Walk of Fame star to Pensacola and said he has sponsored “fetal heart” bills to ban all abortions in Florida because God told him to.
During this year’s session, Hill, an African-American, sponsored HB 31, which would prohibit the removal of Confederate monuments and memorials. The bill failed to get a committee hearing.
During a May meeting with constituents, Hill was captured on tape laughing to a audience member’s suggestion that he sponsor a bill to making being gay punishable by death.
Hill was asked about the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would bring Florida's LGBTQ protections in line with federal rules. It didn't pass, which is a good thing, he said, because being gay is a choice and should not qualify as a “protected status."
A man in the audience said, “In 1 Corinthians, it says that a man who has an affair with another man will be put to death.” a man in the audience says to Hill.
“It says that in the Old Testament, too,” Hill replied.
When another person asked if Hill would introduce 1 Corinthians in the form of legislation, the suggestion unleashed laughter, including from Hill.
“I wonder how that would go over," he said.
Two weeks after being harshly criticized by Republican and Democrat lawmakers, and in response to calls for him to resign, Hill issued a statement apologizing for his “tone” in responding to his constituents’ comments.
“I deeply regret how the tone of my response to a constituent was received at this event,” added Hill. “I believe that no matter one’s race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, economic status or otherwise, that all lives are created equal in the image of God.”
John Haughey is the Florida contributor to The Center Square.