1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

’Nothing’s off the table,’ Florida senator says on potential gun reforms

What’s exactly on the table? Tom Lee isn’t specifying. Neither Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker José Oliva have proposed any action.
Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon
Published Aug. 6

The Florida state senator tasked with responding to the latest spate of mass shootings said Tuesday that “nothing’s off the table” for the upcoming legislative session.

That means mental health. White nationalism. And, yes, guns.

“We don’t have any preconceived ideas,” said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa. “Nothing’s off the table, and nothing’s on the table.”

RELATED STORY: Florida’s Senate president vows to tackle mass shootings, white nationalism

As the nation reels from another series of mass shootings over the weekend, attention in Florida has turned to what lawmakers in Tallahassee are doing about it.

Neither Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker José Oliva have proposed any action.

But on Monday, Senate President Bill Galvano asked Lee to come up with potential responses to the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio

On Tuesday, Lee said he was still trying to wrap his head around the task.

“How we come up with policies to fix the problems in the American psyche I don’t know, but we’ll make a run at it,” Lee said.

He said Galvano didn’t assign him anything in particular to look at — or not look at. In fact, he hadn’t even spoken to the Senate president before Galvano sent a memo announcing Lee’s assignment, Lee said. (Lee said he wasn’t able to return Galvano’s call before the afternoon announcement.)

“Unfortunately, the evil acts of violence over the weekend are an all-too-present reminder that we have work to do,” Galvano wrote.

Galvano in particular mentioned school safety and white nationalism as two areas of concern.

Lee said he expects gun control issues to be explored as well.

“I suspect I’m going to hear a fair amount about background checks,” he said.

RELATED STORY: 'Deceitful and misleading’: Florida’s attorney general slams assault weapons ban proposal after mass shootings

Lee, a longtime lawmaker and former Senate president, is one of the few senators willing to buck the Republican orthodoxy that has dominated Tallahassee over the last two decades. He has railed against the expansion of charter schools, blasted how his GOP colleagues deregulated hospitals last legislative session, and voted against arming teachers in 2018.

The move to arm teachers, in the wake of the mass shooting in Parkland, was supported by Galvano.

But Galvano also led the effort for gun reforms that were unthinkable in Tallahassee before the Parkland shooting, including passing laws raising the age limit to buy a rifle and creating a “red flag” system that allows police to take away someone’s firearms.

Lee’s committee could meet as early as next month. He said he especially wants to hear from law enforcement about any ideas they might have.

He said he knows that his Democratic colleagues on his committee will have ideas as well. Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, has already filed another bill that would ban assault rifles, for example.

But he won’t have an idea what’s possible until he gets to Tallahassee and gets a read of the political winds, he said.

“It’ll give me a better chance to see what’s doable,” he said.


  1. State Rep. Chris Sprowls, 35, addresses the Florida House of Representatives, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla., after the Republican was elected to lead the 120-member chamber. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan) BOBBY CAINA CALVAN  |  AP
    The Pinellas Republican did not shy away from the wedge issues of the day, wading into 2020 presidential politics, abortion and climate change.
  2. The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County identified a positive case of hepatitis A in a food service worker at Hamburger Mary's in Ybor City on Oct. 22, 2018. [JOSH FIALLO | Times] JOSH FIALLO | TIMES  |  JOSH FIALLO | Times
    Slightly more than 200,000 people have been vaccinated this year — a huge jump from the 49,324 people vaccinated in all of 2018.
  3. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. [Photo courtesy of NOAA] NOAA
    Nearly a year after the storm, 18,000 claims are still open.
  4. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    Gov. Ron DeSantis also had set a priority of getting more youngsters ready for kindergarten.
  5. Energy-efficient LED light bulbs. (Times | 2008) St. Petersburg Times
    Trump’s administration recently scrapped a rule that would have phased out incandescent light bulbs.
  6. President Donald Trump speaks at the 2019 House Republican Conference Member Retreat Dinner in Baltimore on Sept. 12. JOSE LUIS MAGANA  |  AP
    The country is moving in that direction, though.
  7. She’s the fifth candidate to announce her campaign for the GOP primary.
  8. Rep. Chris Sprowls, R- Palm Harbor.  [SCOTT KEELER  |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    At 2 p.m. today, the Republicans of the Florida House are scheduled to elect the Palm Harbor state representative to serve as speaker for the 2021 - 2022 term.
  9. Students and community activists marched in Tampa last year after the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The attack killed 17 people and gave rise to Florida’s school guardian law, which this year was changed to allow classroom teachers to be armed. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
    "This is the dumb, backwards stuff that we do here,” one Florida lawmaker said.
  10. Florida Senator Tom Lee, R- Thonotosassa. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES
    Tom Lee chairs the Florida Senate’s Infrastructure and Security Committee, which has been tasked by the Senate president with coming up with a response to the most recent spate of mass shootings.