July 06, 2016

Miami gunfire victim, others push Congress to pass controls


Gun violence victims from Miami and other cities rallied outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and demanded that Congress act on pending legislation to limit firearms sales in the wake of the Orlando massacre last month.

Wearing orange T-shirts to commemorate the 49 people murdered in Orlando and others shot to death, the activists heard rousing remarks from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Lewis trying to continue the momentum for gun controls sparked by an unusual overnight sit-in the civil rights icon led on the House floor two weeks ago.

“The American public deserves so much more from our nation’s leaders than constant arguing,” Antwan Reeves, a Miami-Dade Schools employee who survived an automatic-rifle attack on him and his cousin in Miami Gardens last November, told reporters and spectators at the rally.

Saying “it’s a miracle that I’m here today,” Reeves told a riveting story of how he and his cousin, St. Louis Rams receiver Stedman Bailey, were sprayed with gunfire Nov. 24 while they sat in a car at Northwest 199th Street and 38th Place. Another vehicle pulled up alongside them, and an occupant opened fire as Reeves shielded two of his children in the backseat of their car.

Reeves took 11 bullets while Bailey was shot twice in the head, but both men survived after Reeves somehow drove to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center and each underwent emergency surgery.

“The weapons used during that night of madness left behind 40 shell casings,” Reeves said at Wednesday’s demonstration. “These types of weapons should not be in possession of ordinary citizens.”

Rep. Frederica Wilson, Reeves’ representative in the House, also attended the protest.

“We’re going to need the American public and pressure from the people of this nation to help us in this battle,” Wilson told reporters after the rally.

She added: “I am tired of burying little black boys (in my community), and I even have a foundation set aside to pay for their funerals. So we’re going to fight. I’ve been in this battle for a long time, and I do not intend to give up now.”

Since the June 12 tragedy in Orlando, Republicans who control the Senate and the House have blocked mainly Democratic efforts to pass “No Fly, No Buy” legislation that would make it more difficult for people on FBI terror watch lists to purchase guns.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Miami-Dade and David Jolly of Indian Shores, Fla., are among a small number of Republicans who have broken with their party and pushed for those limited controls.

June 21, 2016

Alan Grayson calls for Florida Legislature to adopt Connecticut's assault weapons ban


Attempting symbolic similarity to Martin Luther and his "95 Theses" to the Catholic Church, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson on Tuesday urged the Republican-led Florida Legislature to adopt stricter gun control measures in the aftermath of last week's shooting massacre at a gay nightclub near his district.

The Orlando congressman affixed to the doors of the Florida House and Senate chambers in Tallahassee a summary of the bill analysis for the law Connecticut passed a few months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in that state four years ago. Assault weapons were used in both the Orlando and Newtown tragedies.

"It's much too easy in America today to kill so many people so quickly," Grayson told reporters who captured his photo op in the Florida Capitol. "This bill ended that for people in Connecticut."

He said seven states have adopted either bans or heavy restrictions on assault weapons, and "I think that this state needs to do that."

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, didn't acknowledge Grayson's request when asked for comment by the Herald/Times, but he did slam Grayson for using the Orlando shooting for political gain.

"Last week, our first-responders bravely and selflessly ran into the Pulse nightclub to end the horrible terror attack in Orlando," Crisafulli said in a statement. "That is quite a contrast to Congressman Alan Grayson who is using the same tragedy to run in front of television cameras to gain attention for his floundering U.S. Senate campaign."

Continue reading "Alan Grayson calls for Florida Legislature to adopt Connecticut's assault weapons ban" »

June 16, 2016

Florida House leader Corcoran urges support for vigil after 'unfortunate' pro-gun mailer

via @stevebousquet

CorcoranflyerScan_2016-6-14_0002_8colState Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, the House speaker-designate, is urging his constituents to attend a vigil Thursday in memory of the victims of the Orlando massacre. Sponsored by the city of New Port Richey, the event will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Sims Park. Participants are urged to bring a single flower to place in a wreath.

"We will be standing together as one to show that we will not be defeated but instead grow stronger," Corcoran said in announcing the event.

In the past few days, some of Corcoran's constituents received a different message from him: a re-election campaign mailer that shows pictures of bullets as well as two photos of guns, including one in which Corcoran is holding a firearm.

Corcoran acknowledged the terrible timing of the mailing and said it was sent last Wednesday, June 8, four days before the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The piece, sent to about 3,200 voters identified as past supporters of the Second Amendment, reflects the majority party's opposition to gun restrictions.

In a statement to the Herald/Times, Corcoran said: "The information sent in the mail was created and sent prior to the tragic events in Orlando. The unfortunate timing of a piece of mail, however, should not shift attention from the tragic and heinous attack by a radical Islamic terrorist. No matter how much some want to use this event to divide us, I remain steadfast in my belief that law abiding Americans must have a Second Amendment right to defend themselves and that we must not give in to the politically correct voices of division."


June 15, 2016

Orlando leaders: The shooting has been transformational

Buddy Dyer OrlandoOrlando's mayors said Wednesday that the community response to the shooting has been transformational -- not only pulling the community together with support and resources but also leading people to what they say is a better acceptance of the LGBT community. 

"It's hard to say we might find a silver lining in this thing but the way our community has come together and stood united and started thinking about different ways to approach each other,'' said Mayor Buddy Dyer at a press conference on Wednesday.

He noted that at the interdenominational prayer service held at the First Baptist Church of Orlando last night, there were many from the LGBTQ community. "There was a lot of reflection by those who might not have been supportive of that community in the past,'' he said. "There's some healing and I think there's going to be more understanding, more discussion, more willingness to be open and embrace diversity and equality."

"So if there's anything at all that could come good out of this it is the fact that we stand more united than ever and that we are more understanding of each other,'' he said.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs echoed that sentiment.

"This is an opportunity for us as a community to learn how to care more, how to understand more and I think we owe it to every one of those victims to re-evaluate as a society -- and certainly as a Central Florida society -- how we treat those who think and feel differently than we do,'' she said.

She said the prayer service Tuesday night was "the most dramatic change that I have ever seen in how our churches respond to the LGBT community."

The night before the service at her Catholic Church dedicated its service to the community.

"Sometimes, it's been a little hard to be Catholic to be honest with you but we have a pope who has brought a new light and a new way of thinking,'' she said. "Last night having all those faith-based leaders saying we want to huge and we want to pray for everyone in the LGBT community who are either directly affected or indirectly affected. That's transformational."  

The mayors announced the opening of  a Family Assistance Center at the former Citrus Bowl that will includes child and family services, grief counseling, ground transportation and airlines assistance for family members, language translation, legal help, help with funeral arrangements and more. 

Dyer started a OneFlorida fund on Tuesday and in its first day had raised $2 million for the victims of families.

June 14, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott on assault weapons: 'The Second Amendment didn't kill people. Evil killed people'

Scott on Fox 613For the third consecutive day, Gov. Rick Scott made the rounds of the national television cameras Tuesday in the make-shift village of satellite trucks and pop-up tents that have been erected just blocks away from the site of the Orlando massacre.

But as the debate continues over how to prevent another mass shooting -- and whether laws need to change to keep assault weapons out of the hands of the deranged -- Scott directed the blame at ''radical Islam" and deflected questions about tightening weapons laws.

"We've had the Second Amendment for over 200 years,'' Scott told the Miami Herald after interviews with CBS News and Telemundo. "What's changed is we have radical Islam. We have ISIS. This country's got to get serious about destroying ISIS, get serious about destroying radical Islam, vetting people better. We've got to share that information better with our local law enforcement community. The Second Amendment didn't kill anybody. Radical Islam. ISIS. They're the ones doing this.

"So our federal government has got to take this seriously and say enough's enough. We've had 49 people killed. They targeted gays. They targeted the Hispanic community. They've got to say this isn't going to happy again in our country.

"What decisions need to be made to make that happen?,'' Scott was asked.

"Get the federal government to focus on destroying ISIS. If you focus on something you absolutely get it done,'' he replied. 

"Do you think people should be arming themselves with more assault weapons?,'' we asked.

"The Second Amendment didn't kill people. Evil killed people,'' he said.

Photo: Rick Scott speaks to FoxTV reporter Bill Hemmer in Orlando near the site of the Pulse shootings.

June 12, 2016

After Orlando shooting, Florida League of Women Voters calls for better gun control laws


Just hours after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history left at least 50 people dead and several dozen more injured at an Orlando nightclub on Sunday morning, the Florida League of Women Voters issued a call to action and demanded better gun control laws in the Sunshine State.

"The time for action is NOW. Guns kill people. That is a fact," read the email signed by league President Pamela Goodman. "Florida must be a leader NOW for necessary gun legislation.

"Call your Florida Representative and State Senator. We must have expanded background checks and extensive REQUIRED safety training for all permit holders," Goodman's message continued. "This is a public safety issue. We must all be responsible and take action for the safety of our citizens."

The email blast from the group was sent at 9:53 a.m., about five hours after the hostage situation ended at the Pulse nightclub and as authorities were still assessing the victims and investigating the gunman.

April 08, 2016

NRA seeks to weigh in on open-carry case before Florida Supreme Court


UPDATE: 2:55 p.m. -- The Florida Supreme Court this afternoon granted the NRA's request to file an amicus brief in the case.

ORIGINAL STORY: 1:53 p.m. --

The National Rifle Association has filed a motion in the Florida Supreme Court to appear as a "friend of the court" on behalf of a man challenging Florida's law banning the open-carrying of handguns.

The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in June in the lawsuit filed by Dale Norman, who was arrested and charged with open-carrying in 2012 in St. Lucie County. He was later found guilty of a misdemeanor and sued to challenge the state law.

The 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that regulating the open-carrying of firearms does not violate the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The state's top court will consider Norman's appeal this summer.

In its motion, the National Rifle Association said it has an interest in the case on behalf of its 300,000 members in Florida.

"A decision holding that open and peaceful bearing of arms is not constitutionally protected conduct would expose these NRA members to legal jeopardy and defense costs," wrote the NRA's Tallahassee-based attorney, Jason Gonzalez.

Gonzalez notes that the NRA was "deeply involved" in crafting legislation this past session that would have allowed 1.5 million people with concealed weapons in Florida to openly carry handguns.

The legislation -- sponsored by father-son duo Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach -- passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Judiciary Chairman Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, refused to take it up, calling the measure unnecessary and potentially dangerous.

The NRA's lobbyist, Marion Hammer, said the legislation was necessary to stop what she called the unwarranted prosecution of gun-owners who openly carried by accident, such as when their shirt briefly rode up or when a gun became visible inside a woman's purse. (In Norman's case, he had been carrying his gun in a holster on his hip while walking down a street in Fort Pierce when someone alerted 911.)

Democratic lawmakers in the House sought provisions to ease those concerns about inadvertent open-carry, but Republicans rejected adding them to the proposed bill. Hammer has said the only solution is to allow open carry altogether.

The Florida Supreme Court in January granted "Everytown for Gun Safety" -- which advocates for gun-control laws -- the ability to file a "friend of the court" brief in Norman's case. The NRA says it will provide more detailed evidence to refute that group's claims, if it's allowed to submit a brief of its own.

Read the NRA's request here.

March 22, 2016

Florida Supreme Court to hear open-carry case in June

From the News Service of Florida:

The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments June 8 in a challenge to a state law that bars people from openly carrying firearms.

Justices issued an order Monday scheduling the arguments in the challenge filed by Dale Norman, who was arrested in 2012 in Fort Pierce while openly carrying a gun in a holster. After a jury found Norman guilty of a misdemeanor charge, the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld the state law, ruling it does not violate constitutional rights to bear arms.

Norman then appealed to the Supreme Court, which said in October that it would take up the case.

During the legislative session that ended this month, lawmakers considered proposals that would have allowed people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry guns. But the measures did not pass.

March 03, 2016

Don Gaetz backs off attempt to revive open-carry proposal


Sen. Don Gaetz today backed down from plans to make a last-ditch effort in getting his open-carry proposal heard this session.

The Niceville Republican had wanted to amend his plan on to a different concealed weapons bill that senators heard on the chamber floor today.

But the attempt was short-lived.

Ever since Gaetz filed the proposed amendment last night, some senators had been coordinating to thwart Gaetz by citing Senate rules.

Heading into the Senate session this morning, Gaetz acknowledged the opposition but said "we'll give it a try."

But when SB 612 came up early this afternoon, Gaetz said he'd been advised by Rules Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, that his amendment was "out of order," because it was the subject of his standalone bill that stalled in committee.

Gaetz said "in deference to Senate rules" he would withdraw the open-carry amendment.

Gaetz's bill -- which would let 1.5 million concealed-weapons permit-holders openly carry handguns in Florida -- cleared the its first committee last fall but then stalled before the Senate Judiciary Committee when Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, refused to take it up.

Diaz de la Portilla's decision to not even consider open-carry sparked anger from Gaetz two weeks ago -- which led to a passionate retort from Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, with whom Gaetz has had a long-standing feud.

The Republican-heavy House passed its version of the open-carry bill in February, by a 80-38 vote.

March 02, 2016

Sen. Don Gaetz wants to revive stalled open-carry proposal through floor amendment


There's a reason lawmakers are hesitant to declare bills dead until the end of session, because there's a lot of procedural maneuvering that can be done to keep stalled bills alive, or at least out of the grave.

Niceville Republican Sen. Don Gaetz is employing one such tactic to breathe life into his controversial proposal that would let 1.5 million concealed-weapons permit-holders openly carry handguns in Florida.

Gaetz this evening filed an amendment to a different concealed weapons bill, in the hopes of adding his open-carry measure to it.

Gaetz's bill cleared the Senate Criminal Justice Committee last fall but then stalled before the Senate Judiciary Committee when Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, refused to take it up. (Two weeks ago, Diaz de la Portilla's decision sparked anger from Gaetz, which led to a passionate retort from Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.)

The bill Gaetz wants to add open-carry to is narrowly titled "an act relating to slungshots." Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, is seeking to remove slungshots from the state's concealed weapons statute.

Hays' bill (SB 612) -- and Gaetz's proposed amendment -- is on the calendar for senators to consider Thursday.