In front of Parkland students, Florida lawmakers decline to take up assault weapons ban

Florida House lawmakers declined to take up a measure that would ban the sale and possession of assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, all while being watched by students from the Parkland high school where a gunman killed 17 people last week.

The bill, HB 219, was filed last October by state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, but the measure was never heard in House committees. A Senate version of the bill filed by Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, has also not been heard. In an unusual procedural move, Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee, of Miami, tried to pull the bill out of committee Tuesday and have it considered on the House floor before the full chamber. McGhee said the bill would be dead unless it was removed because House committees won't meet again before the session ends in March.

"I ask that we keep this bill in the conversation about the solution to combat mass shootings alive," McGhee said to the GOP-controlled House. "While this is an extraordinary procedural move, the shooting at Parkland demands extraordinary action."

The move comes less than a week after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle and started a shooting spree that ended with the deaths of 17 children and teachers. Since then, students from the Broward County high school have traveled up to Tallahassee to lobby lawmakers for stricter gun laws and plan to hold a rally on the Capitol steps on Wednesday.

Florida House lawmakers voted 71-36 to reject taking up the measure on the floor. Stoneman Douglas students were in the gallery watching as the vote took place – some reportedly broke into tears.

Central Florida lawmakers who voted for the bill include Smith; Jose Cortes, D-Kissimmee; Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee; and Amy Mercado, D-Orlando. Lawmakers who voted against bringing the measure to the floor include Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs; Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud; Mike Miller, R-Winter Park; Robert "Bobby O" Olszewski, R-Winter Garden; Scott Plakon, R-Longwood; Rene "Coach P" Plasencia, R-Orlando; and Jennifer Mae Sullivan, R-Mount Dora.

Smith later tweeted that he was angry that lawmakers had rejected hearing his bill while at the same time declaring pornography a health risk.

The Florida House voted to approve a resolution filed by Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, that recognizes the "public health risk created by pornography and acknowledges the need for education, prevention, research and policy change to protect citizens of this state."

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