Gun-Control Bills Fire Up from D.C. to Florida
Around the State
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved the first piece of anti-gun legislation since the Newtown, Conn., shootings, which sparked a wave of proposed gun-control measures, both at the federal and state level, leaving many Floridians worrying about what changes could be on the horizon.
Details from President Barack Obama’s widespread reforms have caused a ripple of backlash from some Florida lawmakers, due to the possible wide-reaching consequences for the gun-friendly state.
What does Obama's gun policy look like?
Universal Background Checks
The president is seeking to perform universal background checks on all gun sales, including sales that are conducted privately. According to Obama’s plan, certain exceptions will be made, however, for transfers between family members and for hunting and sporting purposes.
It also calls for stronger background checks by increasing the availability of mental-health records. The plan says federal agencies will be required to release such data and make sure they are up-to-date.
Ban of Military-Style Weapons
Obama’s proposed legislation would reinstate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, which outlawed the manufacturing of semi-automatic weapons with military-style cosmetic features. Not only does the plan call for a renewal of the ban, but it also states the need to strengthen such a ban, although how this would be accomplished is not explicitly discussed.
Ban of High-Capacity Magazines
Ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds would be outlawed, under claims they “enable any semi-automatic weapon to be used as instruments of mass violence.” In addition, Obama’s plan would also ban armor-piercing bullets outside of law enforcement use.
Obama also included provisions to strengthen school safety and improve the availability of mental health programs.
But, Florida lawmakers have argued that responsible gun owners are being targeted, while the underlying cause of the violence is not being addressed. “Rather than sweeping measures that make it harder for responsible, law-abiding citizens to purchase firearms, we should focus on the root causes of gun violence and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, says there needs to be bipartisan support for any gun-control measures. “Moving forward, my longtime support for Second Amendment rights remains firm. Furthermore, any substantial and comprehensive legislative changes to gun-control policy must be weighed by the full United States Congress, rather than passed piecemeal and unilaterally by executive order.”
Taking Obama’s lead, State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, introduced SB 1670 in Florida, which would ban assault weapons and any conversion kits to create assault weapons. Anyone who lawfully possesses any type of assault weapon must either send the weapon to another state or turn the weapon in to be destroyed. Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, also introduced a bill requiring universal background checks requiring sales of firearms to occur through licensed dealers.
Talk in Florida has also turned to safety in schools with state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, proposing HB 1097 that would allow principals to choose which employees could carry guns at work. Steube said that the bill would allow faculty members to be better prepared to protect themselves and their students. Staff selected to carry firearms would be required to complete safety training.
The “anti-gun-trafficking” bill approved by the Senate committee, which outlaws the purchase of firearms for another person who is barred from ownership, is the first of four gun measures at the federal level.
Allison Nielsen writes special to Sunshine State News.