Editorials

Florida GOP too cowed to tell Marion Hammer to get lost. But they should have the guts to OK special session on guns | Opinion

Democrats in the Florida House are forcing a vote on whether lawmakers should have a special session — soon — on gun reform. Republican lawmakers already are coughing up their excuses not to do so.

No surprise there. But a vote, at the very least, will put on the record who’s running for cover from the issue — and straight into the arms of their sugar daddy, the NRA.

Yes, the topic of guns in fraught with anger and fear on all sides of the issue, plus dueling interpretations of the Second Amendment. But it’s time for cowed Republicans to be the leaders that they purport to be and engage in mature and sober discussion in Tallahassee.

As reported by Miami Herald writer Samantha J. Gross, 41 Democratic state legislators sent letters to Secretary of State Laurel Lee calling for a special session on guns. They want the full Legislature to address, among other issues, universal background checks, safe gun storage, a ban on high-capacity magazines and the creation of a task force in urban areas to address day-to-day gun violence. All good places for the Legislature to start.

The lawmakers who sent letters make up more than 20 percent of the House, which has 120 members, enough to trigger a poll of the entire Legislature.

If 60 percent — 96 members — of both chambers agree, lawmakers will hold a special session before “committee weeks” start on Sept 16. That’s when lawmakers set their agendas for the next session.

Democrats in the state House are hoping to get some bounce from the frightening back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, earlier in August.

Sad to say, the mass shooting in Gilroy, California, the week before those shootings has almost faded from memory.

Unfortunately, that’s been the Republican game plan through Sandy Hook, Charleston, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and too many other massacres, including in Orlando.

Floridians have every reason to wonder if these lawmakers would have been as irresponsibly indifferent after last year’s Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.

However, angry students rallied in Tallahassee chambers, shouting and shaming lawmakers into action.

Ultimately, then-Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill that established a three-day waiting period for the purchase of all firearms; raised the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21; banned the sale of bump stocks; and gave police more authority to ask judges to confiscate weapons from people who threaten themselves or others.

But passage still wasn’t guaranteed in spite of all the blood spilled.

In the Senate, it passed by a 20-18 squeaker. In the House, only 19 Republicans broke ranks with leadership to help pass the bill 67-50. That’s how committed they are to the deadly status quo.

Though it’s clear Republicans will vote No on a special session, they shouldn’t.

Those in both chambers need to come to their senses. They’ll never tell NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer to get lost. But their lack of empathy is appalling. Their thoughts and prayers are wearisome.

And their failure to act on the devastation that gun violence — from shocking mass murders to street-level gunplay — sows nationwide and, particularly, in Florida is inexcusable.

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