Florida Republicans push bills to repeal gun safety measures

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

By Giselle Balido

February 14, 2024

Six years after the Parkland shooting, state Republicans are pushing bills to strip away common-sense gun protections, while Florida Democrats introduce bills to honor gun violence victims through preventive action.

On Feb. 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire on students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the town of Parkland, Florida.

Seventeen students and staff were killed, and 17 others were injured in the massacre.

Aalayah Eastmond, a junior at the time, remembers the terror she felt at what was taking place in the one place where she should have felt safe, her high school classroom.

Then she remembers being overtaken by a feeling of resignation: “At that moment I had already accepted that I was going to die.”

Aalayah lived. But like many survivors, she made a decision. To let others know of the danger of gun violence lurking in communities; to speak of the need to change laws so that a tragedy like this would not be repeated.

Their resolve worked and in response to the tragedy, the Florida legislature passed several measures to prevent another tragedy from happening.

Stripping away protections

But six years after that fatal day, survivors and family members of those that were needlessly lost have seen state Republican legislators introduce bills to strip away those protections.

House Bill 1223 would lower the purchase age for rifles and shotguns to 18 and would apply to sales by either a licensed dealer or private party. The minimum age for handgun purchases would remain 21 under federal law.

House Bill 17 would allow gun purchases to move forward by default after three business days, even if a background check hasn’t been completed.

RELATED: Florida Republicans Reject Millions in Federal Funds for Gun Violence Prevention

This legislation flies in the face of what Parkland survivors and gun safety advocates have been fighting for.

“It is ludicrous that lawmakers are even considering these bills,” Robert Schentrup, gun violence survivor and co-founder of Team ENOUGH, a youth-led organization focused on addressing gun violence, said in a statement. “I will never get to see my sister Carmen again because the 19-year-old Parkland shooter was able to legally purchase an AR-15. There’s nearly universal agreement that at under age 21, your brain isn’t developed enough to drink alcohol, but Florida lawmakers think 18 is mature enough to purchase a killing machine. Their logic defies common sense. Six of the nine deadliest mass shootings from 2018 to 2022 were carried out by individuals under 21. There’s a clear pattern here and lawmakers should heed it as a warning.”

“Legislators have the opportunity to protect children and families and save lives by refusing to move these dangerous bills forward. They must block this legislation and prevent any other parents from ever having to know what it is like to bury their child,” Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter to gun violence and acts as a senior advisor to Brady, a gun violence prevention group, said in a statement.

Honor through action

“We must honor those no longer with us through action,” Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani wrote on X on the sixth anniversary of the Parkland tragedy.

Eskamani, who along with Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, proposed a ban on the sale or transfer of an assault weapon or large capacity magazine (House Bill 279), is among the Florida Democrats who have filed legislation seeking to strengthen Florida’s gun laws.

RELATED: Una Dura Realidad: Gun Violence Disproportionally Affects Black and Latino Communities. Here’s What Needs to Be Done.

Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens also filed Senate Bill 96, the “Self-Defense Restoration Act,” which would repeal Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and prohibit the use of deadly force when a person can safely retreat without the use of force.

Senate Bill 130/House Bill 209 from Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, and Rep. Michelle Rayner, D-St. Petersburg, seek to ban guns from buildings, facilities and programs funded by a government entity. This includes playgrounds, hospitals, residential facilities, and libraries.

Proposals from Rep. Dan Daley, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton would establish “Jaime’s Law,” named for Jaime Guttenberg, one of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. House Bill 145 would require a background check for the purchase of ammunition.

Sen. Polsky and Rep. Christine Hunshofsky, D-Parkland, also want stricter requirements for background checks on purchases, and the safe storage of firearms via Senate Bill 518/House Bill 291. The legislation would also mandate that all firearm sales and transfers be conducted by and processed through a licensed dealer.

“Today, tomorrow, and every day, we remember the students and staff who lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the families who live with the pain of this tragedy,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried in a written statement. “As Democrats, we honor the victims of Parkland, Pulse, and everyday violence with action — and stand before you today determined to fight back against any attempt to make our schools and streets less safe.”


  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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