‘An important first step’: Florida lawmakers react to Senate gun safety deal

We asked lawmakers who represent our area for their thoughts.
Family members place a picture at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers died when a gunman opened fire in a classroom.
Family members place a picture at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers died when a gunman opened fire in a classroom. [ WALLY SKALIJ | Los Angeles Times ]
Published June 14, 2022

Weeks after the mass shootings at a Buffalo supermarket and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, a group of United States senators have announced a tenuous compromise on bipartisan gun safety legislation.

Florida politicians, including Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, could play a key role in determining whether the proposal passes into law.

Measures in the bipartisan deal, announced on Sunday, include adding funding for state “red flag” laws, expanding a ban on firearms sales to perpetrators of domestic violence and strengthening the review process for buyers under the age of 21. It also includes increased funding for school security measures, which some Republicans have focused on as opposed to gun control legislation in the wake of the mass shootings.

While the proposal doesn’t touch on several Democratic priorities to limit access to firearms, it’s a rare compromise on gun safety legislation with enough Republican support to avoid a filibuster.

We asked several federal lawmakers from Tampa Bay and Florida about the proposal. Here are their responses:

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg

Crist, a frontrunner in the Democratic primary for the governor’s race, called the proposal “an important first step,” and said that lawmakers “need to keep up the pressure until it’s law.”

“While more must be done to make our communities safe from gun violence — namely, universal background checks and a ban on sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — I am cautiously optimistic that we could see the first bipartisan gun violence prevention agreement in 30 years,” Crist said in a news release.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa

Castor echoed Crist’s sentiment: There’s more work to be done, but the bipartisan deal is a good start.

“There is much more to be done to save lives, but I am pleased that the Senate framework includes critical elements of the House’s work on gun violence prevention,” Castor said. “In the days ahead, the eyes of our neighbors will be on Florida Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to see if they vote in the interests of our neighbors and children.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

Rubio expressed approval for the bipartisan deal before it was announced, citing red flag legislation he introduced in 2018 as a “cornerstone” of the new agreement in a tweet.

“I’m happy that this proposal includes ideas that I’ve been promoting for four years, for example, the grant for states to pass responsible red flag laws with due process like the one we have in Florida,” Rubio said in a video statement on Tuesday.

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In a second tweet Tuesday morning, Rubio said any bipartisan deal in the Senate would need to include two other bills that have been proposed by Republican legislators: The Luke and Alex School Safety Act and The EAGLES Act.

The Luke and Alex School Safety Act would establish a federal “clearinghouse” to identify and distribute information on school safety best practices and recommendations for use by law enforcement, school officials and the public. The second bill, The EAGLES Act, would expand the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, with an emphasis on countering school violence.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott

A spokesperson for Sen. Rick Scott said that the senator “will review the proposal,” and pointed to several bills Scott is working on to “make our schools safer,” including the Luke and Alex School Safety Act and the EAGLES Act.

Both Scott and Rubio are co-sponsors to both of those bills.

U.S. Reps Bilirakis, Webster and Buchanan

A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, said the congressman wouldn’t comment on the proposal until the final bill is written and he can review the full text.

Two other area Republicans — U.S. Reps Daniel Webster, R-Clermont, and Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, — didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reporter Romy Ellenbogen contributed reporting to this story.