’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
Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon
Published Aug. 6, 2019

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.

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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.