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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Florida lawmakers try again with bills to ban assault weapons

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2019 at 2:13 PM

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Florida lawmakers are trying again with bills to ban assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines in the state.

For the third consecutive year since the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, has filed a measure (HB 455) in the Florida House to prohibit possession and sale of military-style assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

The measure has never been given a vote. The bill includes a long list of specific assault-rifle models that would potentially be banned, including the Sig Sauer MCX rifle, the weapon the Pulse gunman used to kill 49 people and injure more than 68 on June 12, 2016.

Smith filed the same bill in the House about four months before a gunman killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Days after that mass shooting, Florida House lawmakers declined to even consider the assault weapons ban while being watched by Stoneman Douglas students who survived the massacre. State lawmakers also rejected Smith's amendment to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act that included similar assault weapons restrictions.

"Gun violence prevention is an essential part of any comprehensive plan to address school safety as well as the safety of the general public," Smith says in a statement. "We owe it to the victims and families of MSD, of Pulse and of everyday gun violence to keep assault weapons off our streets and to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. I will continue fighting this fight for as long as it takes."

Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, will file companion legislation in the Florida Senate.

"The single common denominator for many of these senseless mass shootings is the use of these weapons of war," Farmer says. "It is our obligation to pass this legislation to ensure the safety and security of our children in our homes and communities."

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."

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