Just weeks after state legislators passed a sweeping package of school safety and gun control changes following the Parkland shooting, a state representative who voted for the bill says he wants to remove its gun control provisions should he be re-elected.
In a town hall hosted by Florida Today Wednesday, Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said he plans to file bills to remove some of the gun control provisions from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act — including a three-day waiting period, higher minimum age to buy firearms from a dealer and a ban on the sale and possession of bump stocks.
Fine said at the town hall that he supported the bill's increased money for mental health services and school safety, as well as a guardian program that would allow staff in schools to be armed, given required training. But he said legislators "did three things as part of this that wouldn't have stopped the Parkland shooting and I don't think accomplish much of anything," according to Florida Today. "I don't think those things solve anything and, frankly to me, they were silly."
The move is a shift in tone for Fine, who had called some of the gun provisions "minor, minor things" before voting for the Parkland bill and called on his colleagues to not let "perfect be the enemy of the good."
The gun control measures were among the most contentious parts of an already contentious bill, particularly in Florida, where state lawmakers have voted to increase access to guns and has some of the most firearm-friendly laws in the country.
Legislative leaders had narrowly navigated polarized factions to pass the Parkland package in both chambers and make it the first legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott near the end of the session. Even so, SB 7026 passed by a slim 20-18 margin in the Senate and a 67-50 margin in the House, where 19 Republicans (the majority of whom are not term-limited and up for re-election) voted no. Ten Democrats, largely from Broward County, voted yes.
Fine had expressed concerns after the Parkland shooting about the proposed gun control measures, telling CNN in February that "I'm not a big fan of taking away folks' Second Amendment rights. I think we need to look at the issues and see where we can play around the edges."
But shortly before the bill was passed by the House, Fine called on his Republican colleagues to put those gun control provisions in the context of the larger bill. State lawmakers had debated for nearly a week on the legislation, which also included a controversial school guardian program that would allow staff in schools to be armed in addition to the gun control proposals. The latter had drawn particular ire from the House's more conservative lawmakers, some of whom eventually voted against the bill.
Fine, a Brevard County Republican, said some of those provisions — the waiting period for buying long firearms and raising the age limit on purchasing guns to 21 — were "minor" and defended his decision to support the bill anyway. He minimized the impact of the higher age limit and compared the waiting period to the "three days to order something from Amazon Prime," he added. "What is the harm in waiting three days if you want to go and get a rifle?"
"The notion that these two minor, minor things — waiting 72 hours just like you do when you order something on the Internet and having to get a rifle from your father if you want to go hunting or your mother if you need to protect yourself — those two things would make perfect the enemy of the good," he added.
Almost immediately after Scott signed the bill, the National Rifle Association filed a federal lawsuit to block raising the age limit to buy guns as a violation of the Second Amendment.
"This bill punishes law-abiding gun owners for the criminal acts of a deranged individual," said Chris Cox of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action at the time. "The gun control provisions in this law wrongly blame millions of Floridians who safely and responsibly exercise their right to self-defense."
On Wednesday, Fine said he disagreed the measures violate the constitutional right to bear arms but called the measures "a bad idea."
Fine's comments drew quick outcry from Parkland shooting survivors, including Jaclyn Corin, one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who has led the #NeverAgain movement. "He voted for the bill when it went through the House, and is simply terrified of the backlash the NRA has given the State of Florida," she wrote Friday morning on Twitter, adding the hashtag #VoteHimOut.
Fine did not respond to requests for comment Friday. A freshman legislator who is running for re-election in his district, he told Florida Today that he expects a dozen Republicans who both voted against the bill and are running for re-election would support his efforts to pull back the gun control provisions.