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Florida Insiders: Don’t count on gun restrictions from Tallahassee

Among 200 politicos surveyed a big majority doubt the legislature will pass new restrictions, but the Insiders are closely divided on whether Republicans would pay a price if they did
Published Feb. 22, 2018
Updated Feb. 22, 2018

The national spotlight is shining brightly and mostly unflatteringly on Florida and its longstanding status at the vanguard of liberalizing gun laws. Mourning schoolmates, parents, and students from across the state descended on Tallahassee to demand and plead for concrete action to prevent another massacre like that at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Despite the unprecedented pressure on Florida's Republican-controlled legislature to enact meaningful restrictions on high capacity semiautomatic rifles, more than 200 of Florida's savviest veterans of Florida politics we surveyed mostly doubt that will happen. Our latest, unscientific Florida Insider Poll asked whether whether the lobbyists, political operatives, campaign donors and activists expect  the legislature "to enact any additional restrictions on gun ownership." I

Nearly six in 10 said no.

"There is no way that the Legislature  passes gun control. I think it's more likely than not that the Senate passes something.  Richard Corcoran runs the House like a dictatorship.  He's running for Governor and trying to be the most conservative guy in the primary," said a Democrat. " He CAN'T let a gun bill through, and he won't. "

The good news for gun control advocates:? Republicans, whose party controls what happens in Tallahassee,  are much less doubtful about it than Democrats. Nearly 55 percent of the Republicans surveyed predicted new restrictions would pass, while just 28 percent of Democrats did.

"The wave is peaking with the country (and many electeds) now recognizing that AR-15s ripping through flesh and walls aren't what our founding fathers envisioned," said a Republican.

"Newton and Einstein noted for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Sometimes when Democrats win, it's because Republicans screwed up and vice versa.  I support the 2nd Amendment, but the NRA has overstepped and their own dogmatic stances (in addition to its absolute arrogance and unnecessary nastiness) have now boxed them into a corner.  I don't expect anything big to happen, but something has to give.   LBJ said politics is the art of the possible. I think it's pretty clear that the impossible is about to become suddenly possible," said another.

And still another: "While Marion Hammer and the NRA are still a force in FL, they are now being matched by Moms Demand Action, new student activists and grass roots energy from suburbanites who are fed up with years of refusal to adopt sensible gun policies in our state," said another. "These new advocates have blocked passage of the NRA agenda this session and we may see more progress in the years to come. "

We allow anonymity in the Insider Poll to encourage frank answers from participants, many of whom are closely involved in the legislative process or have business or personal connections to key players.

Gun rights are a threshold issue for a sizable chunk of the Republican base, so we asked our more than 220 Florida Insiders whether a Republican candidate would pay a political price for supporting tougher requirements for purchasing semi-automatic rifles such as an AR-15. Fifty one percent said yes and 49 percent no.

"It would be very difficult for a Republican who supports tougher gun restrictions to win a competitive primary," one Republican said. "The hardcore GOP base will not have their opinions affected by this or any other event.  This could also impact GOP candidates in competitive general elections, depending on the area of the state.  Turnout would be impacted in more conservative areas if the GOP nominee voted for a ban on AR-15.  Look at the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (1994,) and the election results that followed, as an example of how voters may react.  Nine months seems like an eternity in politics, and what happened in Parkland will likely not have the impact it is having now on voters. "

From a Democrat: "It is possible that a handful of Republicans in deep red districts COULD see consequences for taking action on gun safety reforms that have near universal support, but this consequence only plays out if Republican leadership remains locked down. They make the few who finally stand up on these issues a target. If Republican legislators as a block took a step toward banning assault rifles or universal background checks, making the outliers those members who views on the issue are most extreme, the damage and consequences could be mitigated."

"For the first time in my political life, I do believe that politicians who do nothing will pay a price in November," said another. "The problem is, unless every Republican agrees to go along with tougher requirements, their base will punish candidates in the primary for supporting even the most common sense of restrictions. One of the lessons of Sarasota (where a Democrat won a state House special election), playing to the base with a general election voter who wants to see Trump's wings clipped is a losing strategy."

This month's Florida Insiders:

Tom Alte, Jason Altmire, Scott Arceneaux, Dave Aronberg, Jon M. Ausman, Roger Austin, Ryan Banfill, Christina Barker, Scott Barnhart, Patrick Baskette, Ashley Bauman, Alan Becker, Geoffrey Becker, Samuel Bell, Allan Bense, Wayne Bertsch, Ron Bilbao, Barney Bishop, David Bishop, Stephen Bittel, Greg Blair, Travis Blanton, Katie Bohnett, Anthony Bonna, Paul Bradshaw, Matt Bryan, Bob Buckhorn, Bill Bunkley, Brian Burgess, Alex Burgos, Dominic M. Calabro, Christian Cámara, Bernie Campbell, Al Cardenas, Chip Case, Betty Castor, Chris Cate, Kevin Cate, Jill Chamberlin, Alan Clendenin, Brad Coker, Hunter Conrad, Gus Corbella, Matthew Corrigan, Jon Costello, Ana Cruz, Husein Cumber, Fred Cunningham, Jim Davis, Justin Day, Richard Denapoli, Nelson Diaz, Pablo Diaz, Victor DiMaio, Doc Dockery, Paula Dockery, Christopher Dorworth, Brett Doster, John Dowless, Ryan Duffy, Pete Dunbar, Barry Edwards, Eric Eikenberg, Mike Fasano, Cesar Fernandez, Mark Ferrulo, Damien Filer, Marty Fiorentino, Mark Foley, Kirk Fordham, Brian Franklin, Towson Fraser, Ellen Freidin, John French, Jack Furnari, Tom Gaitens, Eduardo Gamarra, Wayne Garcia, Josh Geise, Dan Gelber, Steve Geller, Julia Gill Woodward, Susan Glickman, Jose Gonzalez, Adam Goodman, Bob Graham, Brian Graham, Cindy Graves, Jennifer Green, Thomas Grigsby, Stephanie Grumman-Zauder, Joe Gruters, Ron Gunzburger, Mike Hamby, Marion Hammer, Chris Hand, Mike Hanna, Nick Hansen, Abel Harding, Jeff Hartley, Chris Hartline, Jack Hebert, Rich Heffley, Bill Helmich, Max Herrle, Jim Horne, Brian Hughes, Aubrey Jewett, Cherry Jim, Christina Johnson, David Johnson, Jeff Johnson, Stafford Jones, Eric Jotkoff, Doug Kaplan, Fred Karlinsky, Joshua Karp, Henry Kelley, Erik Kirk, Ron Klein, John Konkus, Jeff Kottkamp, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Stephanie Kunkel, Chip Lamarca, Zach Learner, Bill Lee, Jaxkie Lee, Alan Levine, Tom Lewis, Beth Leytham, Susan MacManus, Al Maloof, Javier Manjarres, Roly Marante, William March, Alberto Martinez, Beth Matuga, Darrick D. Mcghee, Nancy McGowan, Clarence McKee, Dan Mclaughlin, Kathy Mears, David Mica, Jamie Miller, Jon Mills, Paul Mitchell, Pat Neal, Samuel Neimeiser, Bridget Nocco, Edie Ousley, Darryl Paulson, Anthony Pedicini, Jorge Pedraza, Scott Peelen, Kirk Pepper, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, Rachel Perrin Rogers, Sean Phillippi, Gretchen Picotte, Ron Pierce, Bob Poe, Van Poole, Evan Power, David Ramba, Susannah Randolph, Marc Reichelderfer, Andrea Reilly, Nan Rich, George Riley, Jim Rimes, Franco Ripple, Jason Roth, Sarah Rumpf, Ron Sachs, April Salter, Joe Saunders, Tom Scarritt, Steve Schale, Tom Scherberger, April Schiff, Jack Seiler, Mel Sembler, Stephen Shiver, Bud Shorstein, Alex Sink, Patrick Slevin, Dan Smith, Susan Smith, Mac Stipanovich, Alan Stonecipher, Richard Swann, Nancy Texeira, Phillip Thompson, Karen Thurman, Cory Tilley, Tom Tillison, Greg C. Truax, Frank Tsamoutales, Christian Ulvert, Jason Unger, Karen Unger, Matthew Van Name, Ashley Walker, Peter Wallace, Nancy Watkins, Screven Watson, John Wehrung, Andrew Weinstein, Ryan Wiggins, Susie Wiles, Mike Williams, Gregory Wilson, Rick Wilson, Leslie Wimes, Jon Woodard, Jeff Wright, Zachariah Zachariah, Eric Zichella, Christian Ziegler, Mark Zubaly

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