Florida Lawmakers Reject Bill to Ban Assault Weapons

by | February 21, 2018

By Elizabeth Koh and Steve Bousquet

A move to push a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines directly to the Florida House floor Tuesday afternoon was rejected on mostly party lines, six days after a gunman killed 17 people and injured several more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Rep. Kionne McGhee, of Miami, the incoming House Democratic leader, called for the bill that had not received a committee hearing to be immediately considered by the full chamber at the start of Tuesday's House session. He invoked the shooting in Parkland, where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz used a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle he had purchased legally in Wednesday's attack.

Some Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, who had met with lawmakers earlier in the day, were in the public gallery watching while the move was rejected.

HB 219, sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, of Orlando, prohibits the sale, transfer or possession of large-capacity magazines and assault weapons, including AR-15s. Though it has been referred to three subcommittee or committee stops, it has not received a hearing in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, where it must first be considered.

"I ask that we keep this bill in the conversation about the solution to combat mass shootings alive," McGhee said. "While this is an extraordinary procedural move, the shooting at Parkland demands extraordinary action."

McGhee's motion was rejected 71-36. It would have required a two-thirds vote to move directly to the House floor.

Smith told reporters afterward that he was infuriated at Rep. Ross Spano, a Dover Republican, who has refused to hold a hearing on the assault weapons ban.

Spano, however, has devoted extensive time to his own bill (HB 157), which declares pornography a public health risk. That bill was debated on the House floor Tuesday afternoon.

"He is saying pornography is more important than the epidemic of gun violence," Smith said.

(c)2018 Miami Herald