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Florida Democrats want special legislative session on gun reforms

Lawmakers have until Friday to vote whether to hold a special session in the wake of the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers are considering whether to hold a special legislative session to address issues related to what Democratic members call "common-sense gun law reforms."

Citing mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas; Buffalo, New York; and Parkland, Florida; a letter from state Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura, to Secretary of State Cord Byrd argues there will be continued violence without concrete action taken over weapons.

"We should address these issues with legislation regulating high capacity rifle magazines, mandating universal background checks, and expanding red flag laws," Geller wrote.

A special session of the Florida Legislature can be convened if 20 percent of members make a request in writing to the secretary of state. That level was reached with about 40 Democratic members, according to a news release. The Department of State then asks each member whether a session should be held. In this case, lawmakers have to consider the following question through a 3 p.m. Friday deadline:

Should a special session of the Florida Legislature be convened for the purpose of considering proposals to address gun violence?

If 60 percent of members say "yes," a date of the special legislative session can be set. Recent special sessions of the Florida Legislature included action on property insurance and congressional redistricting maps; both were called upon by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who also can call for such sessions.

It could be a challenge for Democrats to get a special session on gun reform given that both chambers, the state House and Senate, have Republican majority control. But, Florida has demonstrated bipartisanship in the past.

Although members of Congress in Washington, D.C., have consistently failed to enact new gun control measures, such as requiring all gun purchasers to go through a background check that the overwhelming majority of voters support, Florida lawmakers took action following the 2018 Parkland school shooting.

State Republicans and Democrats united behind "red flag" legislation, otherwise known as "Risk Protection Orders," that allows law enforcement to petition the courts to confiscate guns from people who are a threat to themselves or others. Then-Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed it and other measures, like raising the age to own a gun to 21, into law.

Some Florida Democrats, such as State Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, now are calling for even tighter laws. An expansion of the "red flag" law could allow family members to "flag" relatives.

"If we could expand this to loved ones or family members, close people to an individual who may be wanting to inflict harm in our community, I think that would be a smart common-sense solution that strikes the right balance between our constitutional rights, but also wanting to make sure we’re doing everything to keep people in our community safe, especially babies," Driskell said earlier.

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