Democrat Janet Cruz and Republican Dana Young are starting off their battle for Tampa's District 18 Senate seat with attacks over guns.

Cruz, term-limited in her state House seat and challenging incumbent Young, is blasting Young for missing key legislative votes on gun issues.

Young is blasting back at Cruz for voting against the school security bill passed after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

"When the assault weapon ban was up for a vote, (Young) actually walked out of the chambers and hid, like a coward, refusing to vote, while students and parents from MSD were watching," Cruz said via email.

Young missed votes on three amendments during an unusual Saturday Senate session March 3 following the shootings: an assault weapons ban; a requirement for notifying law enforcement of an attempt to buy a gun by a person prohibited from owning one; and tightening requirements for storing firearms around minors. All failed.

Sen. Dana Young.
Sen. Dana Young.

Young said she was called off the floor during the eight-hour session by urgent legislative business, and that critics were "attempting to score political brownie points from a non-issue."

She later recorded positions against all three measures, so her votes wouldn't have affected the outcomes. She voted in favor of the final school security bill, while Cruz along with 30 other House Democrats voted against it. It passed 67-50.

The bill didn't include measures Democrats wanted, including the failed amendments, and included something they didn't like, arming teachers.

Young said increased school security measures recently announced by Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister wouldn't be possible without money from the bill.

"She voted against mental health funding, school safety and hardening, and raising the age limit to buy a firearm from 18 to 21," Young said.

Young "is now attacking me because I didn't want more guns in schools or to arm undertrained and underpaid teachers," Cruz responded.