Florida lawmakers refuse to consider assault weapons ban despite call for tougher gun control laws

Vote comes as members of Congress, state legislators, governors and student survivors of the Parkland shooting demand action

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
,Clark Mindock
Tuesday 20 February 2018 22:31 GMT
Students react to the vote not to debate the weapons ban in Florida
Students react to the vote not to debate the weapons ban in Florida (AP)

Florida state lawmakers have rejected a bill that would ban assault rifles, less than a week after 17 people were killed in a shooting at a Florida high school.

The Florida House voted 36-71 against a motion to consider legislation to outlaw assault rifles and large capacity magazines, effectively killing the bill for the time-being, according to the Associated Press.

The vote came as members of Congress, state legislators, governors and student survivors of the Parkland shooting called for tougher gun control laws.

Armed with a legally purchased AR-15-style assault rifle, a gunman last Wednesday attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, about 45 miles north of Miami.

Students from the high school had travelled to the State House in Tallahassee to watch the vote. They looked on from the gallery as their lawmakers voted against considering the bill, according to Local10 News.

Democratic State Representative, Carlos Guillermo Smith, who has sponsored the assault weapon ban in Florida for the past two years, said the vote was the first time in two years the legislature held a vote on the proposed legislation.

He said the House had a moment of prayer, which he decided to sit out, before lawmakers voted not to bring the bill to the floor.

“For two years I have sponsored the assault weapons ban in the Florida legislature, and this afternoon we were finally given our first vote on whether to discuss the bill, and Republicans refused to even debate it,” Mr Smith told The Independent. “They could’ve voted it down. They could’ve at least voted to take up the assault weapon’s ban on the floor and have a debate, and then if they wanted to they could’ve voted no on the bill. They didn’t even want to have a debate or discussion. Shameful.”

He continued: “I decided to sit out this prayer intentionally because it was symbolic of what this legislature’s strategy has been on how to curb gun violence all along: Thinking and praying all about it, which is not the solution.”

The bill was assigned to three committees but was not scheduled for a hearing, AP reported. The House voted against removing the bill from committee to allow it to be considered by the full House, meaning it is essentially dead for this legislative session since the committees will not meet again before 9 March – when the session ends. Florida’s next legislative session does not begin until next year.

The vote came amid a lack of action on gun control by the federal government. Fed up by the gridlock in Congress on the issue, one state governor, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, has suggested forming a coalition of like-minded governors to push for reform at the state level.

In what could be viewed as an attempt to throw a bone to gun control advocates, Donald Trump on Tuesday said he ordered regulation to ban “bump stocks”, devices that modify semi-automatic weapons to shoot hundreds of rounds of ammunition per minute. The devices were used in the Las Vegas shooting in October that left 58 people dead and hundreds injured.

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