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Ban on Assault-Type Guns Fails in Raucous Hearing, Training and Arming Teachers Passes

| February 27, 2018

The scene inside the Senate Rules Committee hearing room Monday. (NSF)

The scene inside the Senate Rules Committee hearing room Monday. (NSF)

The emotionally raw conversation about guns escalated Monday in the Capitol, as a group of gun-control advocates flailed a key Senate panel considering legislation that students, parents and educators angrily argued would do little to make Florida’s schools safer because it does not include a ban on assault-style weapons.

The intense debate came during a Senate Rules Committee hearing on a broad package addressing school safety, guns and mental health, in response to this month’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people, including 14 students, dead.

More than 1,000 people, many of them wearing “Rally in Tally” neon orange T-shirts emblazoned with #GunReformNow, traveled by bus to Tallahassee to rally and meet with lawmakers before attending the Rules Committee meeting, where the outspoken and frustrated crowd berated members of the panel.

The sea of orange confronted senators during a discussion of an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Coral Gables Democrat, that would ban more than a dozen types of semi-automatic, assault-style weapons like the one used by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz to mow down students and teachers at the Broward County school.

In the days following the Valentine’s Day mass shooting, many students from the Broward County school have pleaded with lawmakers — and President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott — for the prohibition on assault-style weapons, an idea opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association and many leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature.

“Assault weapons are weapons of war. They’re designed for the battlefield and then modified for civilian use … to efficiently extinguish human life,” Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat who is running for Congress, said.

But Marion Hammer, the NRA’s Florida lobbyist, argued Rodriguez’s proposed amendment would stop just “short of banning practically every gun known to man.”

Eric Friday, general counsel for the gun-rights group Florida Carry, likened the weapons targeted in Rodriguez’s amendment to the “equivalent of the same hunting rifle my father and grandfather used.”

The comments of the gun-rights proponents elicited jeers and hisses from the overflow crowd and drew a rebuke from two 15-year-old survivors of the catastrophic event.

“I don’t understand how you can find the hobby of murdering animals the same importance as the murdering of my classmates and teachers,” Bela Urbina said. “This weapon has killed so many people. It is a militarized weapon that we don’t need. We don’t need civilians to have it.”

Her friend Katherine Guerra was even more pointed.

“Do you think that your sport is more important than human lives? And if you believe that, you need to reassess yourselves,” she said.

The raucous crowd erupted in applause for the girls, wearing their school colors of burgundy and silver.

Dozens of speakers lined up to weigh in on the proposal. Nearly all of them spoke heatedly in favor of the ban.

“Shame on all of you,” Andy Oliver, a Methodist pastor from St. Petersburg, angrily scolded lawmakers for failing to enact stricter gun laws in the wake of previous mass shootings, including the 2016 murders of 49 clubgoers at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. “The blood is on your hands.”

The amendment failed in a 7-6 vote, with Miami Republican Anitere Flores crossing party lines to join Democrats, who voted as a bloc in favor of the proposed ban on assault-style weapons.

After the ban failed, the crowd again erupted, threatening lawmakers with being voted out of office in November.

The overall package approved by the Rules Committee would allow specially trained teachers to bring guns to schools, prohibit people younger than 21 from buying rifles or other long guns, and give law enforcement officers the ability to get court orders to take guns away from mentally ill people they deem dangerous.

Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky read notes of support for the bill, even without the prohibition on assault weapons, from the parents of two students who were killed. Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jamie was slain, called the proposal a “minimally acceptable first step.”

Hunschofsky said her community is “still grieving and mourning” the event that rocked the tight-knit enclave in northern Broward County.

“Everybody knew somebody who was affected,” the mayor said. “It’s a very difficult time for all of us.”

Hunschofsky said the bill isn’t perfect but she supports the measure.

“My friends who just buried their children, they want action,” she said. “I remind everybody, three weeks ago, I don’t think anyone in the state of Florida would have thought we would ever be discussing a bill like this. So I appreciate any step in the right direction.”

The mayor said she was “not a fan” of a controversial element in the bill that would allow teachers who receive special training and are deputized by the local sheriff to serve as school “marshals.” School districts could choose whether they want to participate in the program.

The school marshal program, not included in a similar package being pushed by Scott, would require trained teachers to be “distinctly and visually identifiable to responding law enforcement officers, faculty, staff, and students, in the case of any active assailant incident on a sponsoring school district’s campus.”

But Rodriguez asked if such an identification program would potentially make teachers “become targets of mass shooters rather than individuals who are presumably helping defend us.”

Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is sponsoring the $400 million package, said it would be up to local law enforcement “to make sure they know who these participants are and how to identify them.”

Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, who is black, said he fears that arming teachers could have disastrous consequences, especially for minority children.

Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, said he was unable to vote for a bill that “puts children that look like me, look like my child, in harm’s way.”

“I just cannot do it,” Braynon said.

Before the committee signed off on the sweeping measure (SB 7026) in a 9-4 vote, Galvano noted that lawmakers are hurriedly acting to respond to the catastrophe with the goal of preventing others.

And Galvano acknowledged the topic of guns evokes passion, as it did during Monday’s 3 ½-hour meeting. He praised the Legislature for being willing to “revisit” gun regulations.

“That’s not been a debate that this Legislature has ever meaningfully had since I’ve been elected,” the Bradenton Republican, who’s served in the Legislature for more than 14 years, said. “There’s still work to do, but I ask you to join me in supporting this major step in moving this to the next committee so that we never have to endure a tragedy like we have recently endured again.”

After the meeting, Hammer told The News Service of Florida the NRA does not support the measure.

“The bill contains gratuitous gun control language that will not save kids. We support hardening the schools. We support keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. We support putting armed security in the schools. We do not support taking away Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens because a mentally ill young man who should have been stopped numerous times by the system wasn’t stopped, and gun owners are being blamed,” she said.

The bill is expected to go Tuesday to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Also, the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up the House version of the bill Tuesday.

–News Service of Florida

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33 Responses for “Ban on Assault-Type Guns Fails in Raucous Hearing, Training and Arming Teachers Passes”

  1. Justin says:

    No shit. I want to thank the house for not passing this dumb bill.

  2. Mark says:

    And banning the scary gun that looks like an assualt weapon does what? Makes many honest law abiding citizens criminals?

  3. Just the truth says:

    The NRA, Trump, Rubio and Scott win again not listening to the voters that want Assault Weapons banned. Wait until election time, we will remember then.

  4. PCer says:

    Florida is going to turn blue in November. People are sick and tired of their representatives not listening to them.

  5. Chris A Pickett says:

    An Assault weapon is one that can fire semi AND Automatic via a selector switch, and these are ALREADY ILLEGAL to own unless you have a special LICENSE. No average citizen can buy A part, piece, or complete weapon that is capable of AUTOMATIC fire. They make a device which converts a Glock 19 to full Auto. You can find them on line. And if you buy one WITHOUT a License it is an AUTOMATIC 20 years in Federal prison simply for possessing one, you don’t even hae to own the weapon, just the part is an automatic conviction if caught…………..anyone who doubts this, buy one and find out what happens. You will NOT like the results.

  6. Dave says:

    BLUE FLORIDA! it is coming ! ! And the failure to pass this common sense bill of banning ar15 and passing senseless bills like arming teachers, it’s sad to see the lobbyist control of my fellow citizens but it’s good to see the republicans really chop off their own nose here BLUE FLORIDA!!

  7. Flagler Flyer says:

    The democrats and gun control are like moths and flames! It does not matter how many time they get burned running on gun control they keep coming back to it again and again. As a libertarian/constitutionalist, I am very pleased!

  8. Mod says:

    The world is going crazy
    Thanks goodness the kids know better

  9. Lou says:

    NRA members, please provide the name, rank and contact number of the Commander of tbe Well Regulated Militia in the State of Florida. Thank you.

  10. knightwatch says:

    This is insane. Republicans are insane.How do they wake up in the morning and face their kids?

    We must vote them all out of office. November is coming. Let’s have a statewide revolt and scrape Republican idiocy from the bottom of our shoes.

  11. Been here says:

    My child will be pulled from this school system immediately if it was to become legislation that his teachers may be armed. Children do not need hundreds of armed guards all over their schools, are these people Nazis who support that idea?

  12. Rhonda says:


    Let’s elect representatives who – a novel idea – represent their constituents! – and not the NRA or big business.

    Would love to see an investigative journalism piece that shows our representatives, the area of Florida they represent (many people don’t know who their Senator or Representative is), where they stand on the issues (weapons, short-term rentals, education, global warming, etc.), and where their money comes from (NRA, Airbnb, etc.). One big matrix that summarizes it all and can be used when voting.

  13. Chris A Pickett says:

    And what about the sale of Automobiles to unlicensed people? what about the illegals with NO license and NO insurance driving on our roads? What about People who have a history of DUI buying vehicles? Perhaps we need background checks for vehicle purchases too eh? I have tactical pen that I carry, It makes an excellent weapon, and you do NOT need a background check or license for it, but it is a lethal stabbing device. Timothy Mcveigh Used fertilizer and diesel fuel to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma, Anybody, anybody, Background checks for fertilizer and Diesel fuel? What about box trucks, they make great containers for Bombs, again Mcveigh, OKC……….Background checks………? ALCOHOL-how many people are killed EVERY day by drunk drivers-Background checks for Alcohol………………..yeah.

  14. Chris A Pickett says:

    The first documented school shooting in the US was in the late 1700’s, and I can safely say that wasn’t done with an AR15. There were quite a few in the 1800’s-NO AR15’s. The deadliest school shooting of the 20th Century was UVA, I believe-NOT A AR15 was used. The Authors of the US Constitution knew FULL well that advances would be made, That is why the second amendment doesn’t read “The right to Muskets shall not be infringed. They were pretty smart people even for the 1700’s…………..

  15. Pogo says:

    @Dave, knightwatch, and Rhonda

    The Republican’s flop sweat is beginning to smell as bad as the stench of death that arrives well before hammer ever oozes into sight. The young people demanding change won’t forget the creeps that insulted and molested them with today’s vote. Even before they can actually vote, they can become, and indeed are, an army of articulate activists, volunteers, inspirations to others, and leaders. They look into a camera and speak well with calm confidence – like they’ve already been doing with their phones forever. They’re the Republican’s worst fear: A rapidly growing cohort of voters – and candidates – and they’re on their way.

  16. YankeeExPat says:

    As so many of my Trumpster enamored family and friends like to pontificate to me the great Liberal American based injustice conspiracy towards white men , I would like to remind them that white women and those of any other ethnic /religious backgrounds are increasing their voting power in never before seen multiples every single day. And like a moving train, going forward, their voting bloc will be the prime mover in demanding direction for both domestic and foreign policy in our country.

    Though I do not consider myself an Old –Fogy there are two adages I have never taken for granted in my life time.

    1) Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned..

    2) A Mother will protect their Child at All Cost.
    E.g. (Don’t get between a Bear and its Cub)

  17. Concerned Citizen says:

    The Second Amendment does not give you the right to own “assault weapons” I’m curious as to why the average citizen needs an “assault type weapon” anyways.

    I did my time in the service and also in Law Enforcement. I carry a pistol and keep a shotgun in the house. I feel more than protected even with only 14 rounds .40 S&W and 7 or 8 rounds of #8 bird shot. I sincerely hope the day never comes that I have to use either.

    Not quite sure what owning an AR with high cap mags would solve. Sounds like to me these weapons are more of a ego booster. Kind of the jacked up truck syndrome compensating for lacking something else.

    There are a good number of people out there with no prior military or Law Enforcement experience. They rush out by that AR or M4 type weapon with really no clue of the power they have. To me that’s more terrifying than any terrorist attack or “government take over”.

    In the case of arming teachers I have mixed feelings on this one. The average person has no idea how they would react in a combat situation. When it goes down you have very little time to think things thru and once you commit you can’t reverse it. Couple with kids in the way and it just seems like a mess waiting to happen.

    I see some schools are arming prior service teachers. I think this is a step in the right direction but still needs vetting. Schools need some sort of protection unfortunately and after Law Enforcement failed its going to be hard to find the right medium.

  18. Chris A Pickett says:

    It’s called a 3 gun competition. And Thousands of Americans take pert in them. End of Lesson.

  19. Randy Jones says:

    To the person who said, “NRA members, please provide the name, rank and contact number of the Commander of the Well Regulated Militia in the State of Florida.” That would be, Rick Scott, Governor (per 250.03 Florida Statutes). He can be reached at

    Per 250.02 Florida Statutes
    (1) The militia consists of all able-bodied citizens of this state and all other able-bodied persons who have declared their intention to become citizens.
    (2) The organized militia is composed of the National Guard and any other organized military forces that are authorized by law.
    (3) The unorganized militia is composed of all persons who are subject to military duty but who are not members of units of the organized militia.
    (4) Only persons exempt from military duty by the terms of federal law are exempt from military duty in this state.

  20. Born and Raised Here says:

    Leave my 2nd Amendment Rights alone. I have a right to bear any arms I want to protect property ,family, and self.

  21. Really says:

    Florida will turn blue??What a bunch of morons,especially after all the states that turned red!The 2nd amendment does not specify,nor is it up to anybody to govern what firearm I use to protect my family.Banning what people label as “assault” weapons(people clearly that have very little knowledge except what they hear on tv,will solve NOTHING.Guess what-meth is illegal,it stops NOBODY from getting it.Chicago has some of the STRICTEST gun laws in the country,almost impossible for a law abiding citizen to even obtain a concealed carry permit,yet the highest gun violence rate in this country.They tried a similar ban in 1994-Did absolutely nothing,numbers did not change.All it does is disarm law abiding citizens-crazies and outlaws will be the only armed people.Thats liberal sense for you

  22. Slapping gun grabber hands says:

    The Sulphur Springs, TX shooter was stopped with an AR-15

    Here are two recent instances of the good guys stopping criminals with an AR-15

    You want to know why responsible gun owners should be allowed to own AR-15s? Look no further than what happened in Parkland. A gunman is on a rampage and cowardly cops won’t even enter the school. SCOTUS even ruled that police officers are under no responsible to risk their lives for you.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Just what we need, more nut job teachers who take advantage of kids, and who are arrested regularly to have guns in schools. The law needs to allow every American to carry!

  24. Edith Campins says:

    Bottom line, Republicans care more about the NRA money than they care about your children and grandchildren dying

  25. Pogo says:

    @Randy Jones

    That’s pretty weak tea (as in tea party) but if you insist – read your own post again:

    (1) The militia consists of all able-bodied citizens of this state and all other able-bodied persons who have declared their intention to become citizens.

    Okay Dreamers – grab a gun.

    (2) The organized militia is composed of the National Guard and any other organized military forces that are authorized by law.

    That checks out.

    (3) The unorganized militia is composed of all persons who are subject to military duty but who are not members of units of the organized militia.

    When I think of all the times I’ve heard the call to the unorganized militia, let’s think, yes, never.

    (4) Only persons exempt from military duty by the terms of federal law are exempt from military duty in this state.

    So that leaves out trump and his bone spurs: And the too young for military service, the too old for military service, and especially the unable to qualify for a driver license but still able to wave a gun around bloviating Republican base. Thanks for clearing that up.

  26. Just the truth says:

    Wayne LaPierre CEO of the NRA was a draft dodger, never served in the military, like Trump and his three sons. Explains why they like assault rifles, they couldn’t fight themselves out of a paper bag.
    The NRA should not be allowed to run Washington, I thought that was up to our voters who elect them in office.
    And, Trump isn’t doing one thing to protect our country against the Russians doing cyber attacks, why is that? And his son in law can’t get security clearance, that should tell everyone something is wrong with him also.

  27. College Student says:

    um no I’m pretty sure you’re talking about the ARMED officer that ran like a coward when the shooting occurred. He dropped the ball, he did not live up to his commitment. I respect law enforcement. But him as an individual… it makes me almost as sick as thinking about these people who by the way have all been on prescribed drugs killing innocent kids. We are literally having drugs prescribed by doctors making people worse! putting inhumane thoughts in peoples head to kill. But ban the gun, then what happens when the ban guns keep surfacing because these guys didn’t follow the law in the first place!

  28. gmath55 says:

    Why do people make a stupid comment like Republicans care more about the NRA money than they care about your children and grandchildren dying. Like according to their logic there were no shootings or NRA when Democrats were in office aka Obama.

  29. Peolle with guns kill people says:

    And only people with guns can kill people killing people with guns. Allow rotc to carry live guns also…the .ore guns in schools will make murders think twice .

  30. Ben says:

    I want ALL VARIATIONS OF THE HUMMER banned. The H1, H2, H3 should all have production and sales stopped! These are MILITARY-style automobiles and are DANGEROUS!

    Please grow up; lawmakers got this one RIGHT.

  31. Randy Jones says:

    Dear Pogo – I was simply responding to a request for information posted by another reader. I made no “political” statement. I simply cited the LAWS of the State of Florida. Objective facts (codified LAWS) don’t disappear just because your subjective feelings wish they would.

  32. Why you wanna know? says:

    The problem isn’t the guns, it’s the fact that Americans are no longer allowed to
    Discipline our own kids! So technically yes,
    Blame the government, not the guns. And the fact that these kids nowadays think they’re grown and can do whatever they want to. I see this everyday, I work for the school board. It’s pretty rediculous when the teachers are scared of kids they teach, so they let them do whatever they want to! Facts! Also, a lot of this is propaganda to strip Americans of gun rights.. they will stage anything to get this reaction from liberals.

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