DeSantis throws cold water on special session on gun control

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

Democrats in the Florida legislature have an effort underway in Tallahassee to bring lawmakers back to the state capitol for a special session on gun control, and legislators themselves have until Friday afternoon to cast their vote in support or opposition to the idea. Even if the request gets the required votes of 60% of lawmakers, however, no special session can take place without the approval of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

On Wednesday, DeSantis was asked about the Democrats’ wish list, which includes “legislation regulating high capacity rifle magazines, mandating universal background checks and expanding red flag laws,” and while he didn’t come right out and say there’s no chance of a special session happening, his response left little doubt about the possibility of new gun control laws passing in Florida this year.

“With all due respect to these leftists, they just want to come after your Second Amendment rights,” DeSantis said. “Let’s just be honest, that’s what they want to do. They don’t want you — they view you, as a law-abiding citizen, as the target of what they’re trying to do. How can they, on the one hand, say they’re serious about this when they support these people who let all the criminals out of prison and they don’t prosecute people?”

Democrats, including Rep. Joe Geller, who originally called for the special session, laughably claimed in response that none of what they’re calling for would infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights.

“These leftists? Nothing in our proposal would take a gun away from anybody who has one,” Geller said. “We’re trying to control who gets one, and we’re trying to make sure that people who have been clearly dangerous have a red flag.”

Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, whose district includes Pulse nightclub, where a shooter killed 49 and wounded 53 others in 2016, told Florida Politics the Special Session request is a modest one. DeSantis likes to cause chaos and throw insults instead of solving problems, she continued.

“For the Governor to try to pivot and say this is about leftists taking away firearms, it’s just not true,” Eskamani said. “Nothing in this Special Session order would take away anyone’s firearm.”

It’s true that a ban on so-called assault weapons wasn’t included in the Democrats’ demands, but that’s not because they don’t want it. Geller told a reporter that while he’s all in favor of a ban, he wanted to limit discussion this time to “commonsense” legislation that he thinks could draw bipartisan support. I see that as code for “we don’t want to talk about banning guns months before an election, so we’ll stick with other stuff we think is less controversial.”

But DeSantis also didn’t accuse leftists in Florida of trying to take people’s guns with this special session, despite what Geller and Eskamani claimed. At least in the quote from the Florida Politics reporter, DeSantis talked about leftists coming after “Second Amendment rights,” and that’s clearly the case when Democrats are pushing to criminalize commonly-owned ammunition magazines, private person-to-person sales, and expand a red flag law that currently requires law enforcement to file petitions to include a much broader universe of individuals who can file potentially false claims against a petitioner.

DeSantis rightfully pointed out that law-abiding citizens are the focus of Democrats’ gun control efforts, all while they’re ignoring the current laws on the books and turning a blind eye to the sweetheart plea deals and slaps on the wrist that Biden’s DOJ is engaged in when prosecuting straw purchasers and gun traffickers. Why are the Florida Democrats calling for a special session solely focused on legal gun owners or firearms themselves instead of looking at ways to expand access to mental health or to overhaul our court system to ensure that violent criminals not only get their day in court, but spend time behind bars for their crimes?

I think we know the answer to that question. They’re hoping to use gun control as a wedge issue between now and November, and they’re calling for a special session on gun control so they can portray Republicans from DeSantis on down as cold and uncaring tools of the gun lobby when that session never materializes. DeSantis was right to throw cold water on the idea, and if Florida Democrats want to continue to try to use gun control as an election year cudgel, they’d better be ready for the governor to swing back just as hard at their attempts to blame law-abiding citizens for the actions of madmen and murderers.