Four days after the tragic shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and hundreds of others injured, Democrats in the state Legislature are proposing measures dealing with gun rights in Florida.
Gun rights advocates in the Legislature accuse Democrats of trying to take advantage of the tragedy.
“I look at this as people who have that agenda see this as an opportunity to move their agenda,” said state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. “I would be extremely cautious because what we’ve seen in Florida with the policies we have is the lowest crime rate in 46 years.”
One of the Democratic proposals announced Thursday would prevent individuals who are considered to be at high risk of harming themselves or others from being able to obtain firearms on a temporary basis.
The legislation would permit family, household members, and law enforcement to obtain a court order in cases where a person can be proven to be a significant danger to themselves or others.
“It is critical to address senseless gun deaths that now seem to be more the norm than a rarity,” said Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, the Senate sponsor.
Sen. Gibson and Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, who is sponsoring the bill in the House, say the intent of the legislation is “to reduce gun deaths and injuries by allowing an order to temporarily restrict a person’s access to firearms, while simultaneously respecting constitutional right.”
“In light of Sunday night’s tragedy in Las Vegas, it is more important than ever that we address how to limit gun violence,” stated Rep. Berman. “This bill provides a mechanism for family or household members and law enforcement to stop bad actors before tragedy happens.”
But those close to Stephen Paddock, the gunman in Sunday night’s massacre in Las Vegas say they had no warning or indication that something was terribly wrong.
“Unfortunately we will have these types of deranged situations and, as you can see, they go there to die and take as many people out as they can,” Sen. Baxley said. “But the large percentage of firearm owners are very responsible people who take serious the obligation to defend themselves and others from harm and I weigh that very heavily.”
On Wednesday, two Democratic lawmakers from the Orlando area, state Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, introduced legislation that would ban assault weapons in Florida. The lawmakers filed similar legislation last year after 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.
Marion Hammer, the executive director of Unified Sportsmen of Florida and past president of the National Rifle Association, wouldn’t comment on the legislative proposals.
“Now is not the time to be talking about it (legislative proposals),” said Hammer.
She says the grief from Sunday’s tragedy is still raw and emotions are still running high
Sen. Baxley agrees with Hammer and urges leaders to move cautiously when it comes to gun rights.
“Firearms don’t assault people. Assault is behavior,” said Baxley. “It’s not a weapon unless it’s used as a weapon. It can be used for defense, as well as to perpetrate evil. I’m still of a strong conviction, if not a stronger conviction, that it’s important that we protect people’s rights to defend themselves and their family.”