June 20, 2013

NRA launches email campaign to support bill banning firearms sale to mentally ill

Gun rights Marion Hammer, who for decades has fought laws that restrict firearms in Florida, is mounting a campaign to urge Gov. Rick Scott to sign a bill that will ban gun purchases –- for the mentally ill

Hammer, the powerful lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and United Sportsmen of Florida, has started an email “alert” to about 200,000 of the group’s members  urging them to “Please email Governor Scott right away and urge him to sign HB-1355.”

The blitz is necessary, she said, to “counter the barrage of emails” loaded with “patently false” information filling Scott's “Sunburst” email inbox.

Since the bill’s passage, the governor’s office has received at least 17,008 emails and 2,711 calls in opposition to the bill (as of June 19). Many of the emails are identical, except for names of  the senders. In contrast, Scott has received a dozen calls and one email in support of the bill.

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June 14, 2013

"Chicken Charlie" Crist draws fire in gun-control web video


As former Gov. Charlie Crist appears ready to announce a bid for his old job, the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat has a target on his back for his old positions.

Especially guns.

Once A-rated by the NRA, Crist no longer will be. The gun lobby will back Gov. Rick Scott. But Crist also appears to be taking fire from progressives, including this new group, gutsorguns.com, that just posted this "Chicken Charlie" video:


After posting this, we got the press release:

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May 06, 2013

Thousands of gun owners email Gov. Scott seeking veto of NRA-backed gun law

More than 4,000 people emailed Gov. Rick Scott on Friday, telling him to veto the only gun bill that passed through the Florida Legislature this year.

The bill, HB 1355, aims to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and received the blessing of the National Rifle Association. It passed the Senate unanimously and passed the House on a 117-1 vote.

 Gun owners--who have sent Scott more than 20,000 emails in the last two weeks opposing any new gun legislation—are urging Scott to use his veto pen on HB 1355.

“I am opposed to any expansion of gun control, of any kind,” wrote Douglas Elliot, of Polk County. “Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg is bent on disarming every American in this country. I am an American citizen and am a responsible owner.”

The bill would close a loophole in Florida law that allows people who voluntarily commit themselves to a mental institution to buy a gun once they leave. People who are involuntarily committed under the state’s “Baker Act” laws are currently prohibited from buying firearms.

Most people who are committed into mental institutions in Florida do so voluntarily. Officials from the National Rifle Association worked with a Miami Gardens Democrat, Rep. Barbara Watson, to try and close the loophole.

Watson’s bill was one of more than a dozen gun control laws proposed by Florida Democrats this year, the first session after the mass shooting of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut. Other than HB 1355, none of the bills received a hearing in Florida’s firearm-friendly Legislature.

 However, for the first time in several years, the Legislature did not pass any controversial bills to expand gun rights—perhaps a side effect of the national firestorm over gun crime.

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April 29, 2013

Gun rights concerns create new hurdle for medmal bill

A Senate priority bill to limit the liability of Florida doctors ran into trouble in the House on Monday when opponents suggested that it could be used by insurance companies who represent the doctors to create a private registry of gun owners. 

The bill, HB 827, would deal with what are known as “ex parte communications” in malpractice cases and would allow lawyers for doctors hit with a malpractice claim to interview any other doctor about a patient’s health record in private.

Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, believes that the provision could open the door to lawyers asking doctors about the gun-toting habits of their patients and, over time, use that information to build a database of gun owners who could be charged higher insurance rates.

Grant filed an amendment Monday to prohibit doctors from revealing any information about a patient’s gun ownership, as well as any history of child abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, mental health and reproductive history unless the patient’s lawyer is present.

It was enough to threaten the provisions of the bill so House leaders postponed the high profile debate.

“Given some of the concerns with physicians keeping records of firearms, I don’t think they should be in the hands of an insurance company without a lawyer or claimant being present,’’ Grant said.

He suggested that absent his amendment, insurance companies will attempt to plumb the doctors’ interviews with patients to capture information and raise premium rates for people and businesses who carry guns. 

“If insurance truly is the calculation of risk against profit-- meaning all of these risk factor make it more or less likely that a claim is going to happen -- is it more likely that bodily injury could happen in a house that has guns? Absolutely,’’ he said.

But supporters of the bill said the last-minute claims had nothing to do with medical malpractice and were a last-ditch effort to scuttle the bill. The Senate has already passed the provision as part of a broader bill, SB 1792, that would also place additional restrictions on expert witnesses in lawsuits.

“The intent of the sponsors of those amendments was to bounce the bill then turmoil generally ensues,’’ said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, the House sponsor.

The Senate plan is a top priority of his father, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, but it is vigorously opposed by the Florida Justice Association, whose lobbying team includes Grant’s father, former state senator John Grant.

“Matt Gaetz and I are going toe-to-toe,’’ said Grant, the son. “His dad’s number two priority is this bill and my dad lobbies for the FJA so I’m sure people will talk about it.”

Both Grant and Gaetz deny they are working on behalf of their fathers.

Grant said that he and his dad “don’t discuss bills that he lobbies….We keep a very bright line in between it.” 

Gaetz  said he has filed bills to limit doctor’s liability on medical malpractice for years. “My dad and I have both fought for medical malpractice litigation reform during our tenure in the legislature,’’ he said.

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who is pursuing the bill said he considers the last-minute attempt to use gun-owners to sabotage the bill a dirty trick.

“I much prefer to get stabbed in the chest than in the back,’’ he said. “Nobody wants to have their finger prints on things.”

He said he will propose an amendment to appease the concerns of the National Rifle Association that gun owners are being charged higher rates by insurance companies.

“We would like to make sure that gun ownership is not part of the underwriting criteria and these insurance companies don’t use gun ownership to underwrite policies,’’ he said. 

April 18, 2013

Bloomberg gun group bashes Marco Rubio on guns, "turning his back on the overwhelming majority of Florida voters."

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group founded and funded in good measure by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is holding a protest press conference today in Doral to draw attention to Sen. Marco Rubio's no vote yesterday on expanded background checks for gun buyers.

Before the vote, the group already announced a small ad buy in the Tampa and Orlando that accuses Rubio of making Florida "less safe" because his opposition to more background checks would allow "criminals and the mentally ill" to more easily get guns.

The press release for today's press conference is below the ad:

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April 17, 2013

After gun bill falters in Congress, Fla. Legislature sends 'Hands off our guns' memorial to Obama

Though gun control efforts in the U.S. Senate appear to stall Wednesday, the Florida Legislature is sending a message to Washington just in case: Hands off our guns.

In a 81-36 vote, the Legislature passed House Memorial 545, which warns federal officials not to infringe on the rights of gun owners.

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes,”  said bill sponsor Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, quoting a 19th century essay by Cesare Beccaria. “Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants.”

When a Democratic lawmaker pointed out that the Manchin-Toomey compromise on expanded background checks failed in the U.S. Senate, some lawmakers burst into applause in the chamber. Combee’s bill was co-sponsored by 57 other House members.

Combee said he still wanted the letter to be sent to Washington just in case the federal government considers gun control in the future.

One Representative shouted out “Let liberty ring!” before making the sound of loading a gun and asking his colleagues to support the bill. It passed in a lopsided vote that broke down mostly along party lines.

Democrats did not speak much on the bill (the agenda for the day was quite long and the House had been debating for six hours by the time the memorial was heard).

One Democrat did get a gun bill passed shortly after the memorial vote.

A bill to require expanded gun restrictions for some mentally ill people passed the House 117-1. It was sponsored by Rep. Barbara Watson (D-Miami Gardens) and supported by the National Rifle Association. It was a small victory for gun control advocates, who have filed several gun bills this year with little success in the Legislature.    

April 04, 2013

Miami Senator calls on Scott to stop flow of 'armor piercing' bullets

 Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, said armor-piercing bullets have become ubiquitous in his district and is asking Gov. Rick Scott to do something about it.

In a letter to Scott’s office Thursday, Bullard called on Scott to begin an investigation into the flow of deadly bullets into South Florida, calling them "military-grade" and saying his constituents are living in "open war zones."

“As night falls in many of these communities, families gather before twilight not to feast, but to fear,” he wrote. “They lock themselves in to lock out those who prey the streets with high powered weapons that pierce a home’s walls as effortlessly as they pierce a child’s body.”

Bullard also lamented the fact that several gun control bills are languishing in the Florida Legislature, which has been reluctant to entertain the gun debate.

Here’s Bullard’s letter to Scott:

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March 21, 2013

Poll: Voters in the ‘Gunshine State’ want tougher gun laws, and Hillary

Florida voters support universal background checks for gun purchases, other gun control laws and Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.

The poll, released Thursday, found that 91 percent of Florida voters support universal background checks for all gun purchases.

“The idea of requiring background checks on those who want to buy guns has overwhelming support, 91 - 8 percent, in a country where getting a majority to agree on anything is often difficult,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Floridians also support Hillary Clinton more than their homegrown political stars, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush. In a head-to-head matchup, Clinton leads Bush 51 to 40 percent and outpolls Rubio 52 to 41 percent.

By a 51-44 percent margin, Florida voters support stricter gun control laws in the state, with majorities of voters backing an assault weapons ban and a ban on high capacity magazines.

Florida’s results track many of the results found by pollsters in other states, despite the fact that the Sunshine State is one of the most gun-friendly in the country. In December, Florida surpassed 1 million concealed carry permits, a number that leads the nation.

Those who own guns have very different opinions about gun control, with 61 percent opposed to stricter gun laws and 57 percent opposing an assault weapons ban. Still, gun owners support universal background checks by an 88-11 percent margin. The Florida Legislature has mostly avoided the gun debate this year, as several gun control bills have languished after being filed. 

Below are a few more results from the poll:

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March 06, 2013

Universal gun background check bill filed, sponsor admits its a tough sell

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, introduced the “Universal Background Check Act” on Wednesday, filing a gun control bill that requires virtually all sales of firearms to be conducted through licensed dealers.

The bill would require non-licensed individuals that want to sell or “transfer” a gun to do so through a licensed dealer. The gun control bill faces long odds in Florida’s gun-friendly, Republican-dominated Legislature, something Sachs readily acknowledged.

“I am not so sold on the idea that this bill is going to pass, “ said Sachs. “What I am looking forward to, and I am furious about his as so many Floridians are, let’s have the discussion. Let’s bring everyone to the table and let’s have this discussion.”

Licensed dealers are required to conduct background checks prior to selling firearms but so-called "loopholes” in the law allow some gun sales to occur without a background check, something that Congress and the White House are considering addressing.

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March 04, 2013

Steve Crisafulli officially chosen as House Speaker for 2014

Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, was officially appointed as the incoming Republican Leader of the Florida House of Representatives for 2014 on Monday.

If, as expected, Republicans etain their majority in the 120-member House in 2014, Crisafulli will be the state’s next House Speaker, occupying one of the most powerful positions in state government.

“It is an honor for me to be a small part of this ceremony, and a special day for a very close friend,” said current House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Crisafulli was chosen for the post a week after last year’s election, when designated Speaker-in-waiting Rep. Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) was defeated in a shocking upset.

As speaker-designate, Crisafulli will play a major role raising money and getting Republicans elected in 2014.

“No one who’s blessed with this opportunity gets here on his own,” said Crisafulli, in a speech where he thanked a slew of people and got emotional at times.

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