Florida’s next Attorney General does not support the Legislature’s gun bill

Consensus has been found on SB 7026 -- all six candidates running for the state's top law enforcement post is opposed to the bill.
Published March 9, 2018

All six candidates for Florida attorney general, two Democrats and four Republicans, say they would have voted against the school safety legislation just passed by the Legislature and sent to Gov. Rick Scott.

Their reasons mirrored those in both parties who opposed Senate Bill 7026 in the Legislature: Republicans said it infringes on gun rights, and Democrats said it doesn't go far enough to prevent gun violence and that they oppose arming teachers.

The Buzz polled the six candidates on the issue via email after two of the Republicans, state Reps. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and Ross Spano of Dover, accused a third, former Judge Ashley Moody of Plant City, of ducking questions about gun issues.

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Four candidates – Rep. Sean Shaw, D-Tampa, and Republicans Fant, Spano and Rep. Frank White of Pensacola — all voted against the bill when it passed the House Wednesday on a 67-50 vote.

Fant, Spano and White have all sought to portray Moody as a liberal, although she's considered by some to be the frontrunner in the primary.

Fant's campaign sent out news releases coinciding with the House vote on the bill calling Moody "Absent Ashley," accusing her of neglecting to take a stand on the legislation, Senate Bill 7026, after declining an invitation from Fant for a debate on gun rights in a Jacksonville gun shop.

Spano's campaign accused her of avoiding public comment on gun issues.
Among other provisions, the bill would add a three-day waiting period for purchasing rifles and shotguns and raise the age limit to 21. Current law allows 18-year-olds to buy them.

The bill creates a voluntary program for school districts to allow some school personnel to carry guns in school.

It also bans "bump stocks" which allow rapid, machine gun-style firing of semi-automatic rifles and provide money for more resource officers and mental health services in schools.

But the Legislature rejected Democratic calls to add bans on military-style semi-automatic rifles and large capacity magazines.

As result, both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats voted against the bill.

Scott hasn't said whether he'll sign the bill but some legislators say they expect him to.

Moody responded Friday morning to a query sent to her campaign late Thursday about her view on SB 7026.

"Many aspects of SB 7026 are commendable," she said in an email statement, but "I would not support the measure in its current form. I do not support making it illegal for competent law-abiding adults to purchase firearms."

She said 18-year-olds are legally considered adults and may be living on their own, and the law "would leave them defenseless."

Fant responded, "We can protect our students without taking away the rights of law abiding citizens. This bill infringes upon your Second Amendment right to bear arms and I will not stand for it!"

Spano said, "First, I don't believe the school safety provisions were strong enough to effectively protect our children. And second, I believe the age requirement to purchase a long gun is unconstitutional and an unnecessary erosion of our Second Amendment rights."

And White said, "While I appreciate the components of this plan that will actually impact school safety, I firmly believe this legislation went too far in infringing on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens."

Shaw said Floridians "have spoken loud and clear in opposition to arming our teachers and in favor of banning military style assault weapons. … A proposal that goes directly against the will of our constituents by not banning assault weapons and putting firearms in classrooms with our children is not the answer."

Shaw Democratic primary opponent, Tampa consumer finance lawyer Ryan Torrens, said the bill "has some excellent features," but, "I stand with the Florida Education Association in opposing any bill that will make it legal to bring guns into classrooms. … This bill does nothing to address one thing all Floridians favor – we must immediately fix the background check system that failed so miserably, at all levels, in Parkland. And finally, we must ban sales of military-styled assault weapons."