The Florida Senate on Saturday voted down a bill to ban assault weapons, then immediately pivoted to a moment of silence for victims of the shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school last month.
Many student survivors of the Valentine’s Day shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School flocked to the State House in the days after the attack to lobby legislators to ban assault weapons and take other measures on gun control.
The bill to ban assault weapons, including the AR-15 used in the school shooting, failed by a 20-to-17 vote. After the vote, Senate President Joe Negron (R) asked senators to take their seats. He said that by the proclamation of Gov. Rick Scott (R) there would be a moment of “silence and reflection” for the Parkland victims.
“Today marks 17 days after those 17 fellow citizens lost their lives,” said Negron, who voted against the ban. “I would ask us to begin reflecting on their lives and the bravery that was shown on that day.”
The body then moved to other legislation on guns. A measure to allow parents to opt students out of a classroom where a teacher is armed failed.
The Florida legislature has long resisted restrictions on guns and has been a laboratory for gun rights legislation that is later introduced in other states. But in the wake of the Parkland shooting, some gun-control measures have quickly advanced in Tallahassee. Budget committees in the House and Senate signed off on a suite of bills that include raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21 and mandating a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases.
State Sen. Linda Stewart, a Democrat who introduced the amendment to ban assault weapons, said on the Senate floor that ammunition from assault weapons can blow up inside the victim’s body and that there is no reason for anyone to have them.
“I want us to do today what the kids asked us to do when 10,000 of them came up here on the steps of the capitol and asked us,” she said. “Never again. Please ban assault weapons.”
State Sen. Kelli Stargel (R) argued that banning assault weapons could be a slippery slope. Would fertilizer, used in the 1995 bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building, be banned? Or pressure cookers, used in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings?
“Thoughts and prayers are really the only thing that’s going to stop the evil from within the individual that is taking up their arms to do this type of massacre,” Stargel said.
Jaclyn Corin, the junior class president at Stoneman Douglas High, tweeted that the vote “breaks my heart, but we will NOT let this ruin our movement.”
She then wrote on Twitter: “A MOMENT OF SILENCE WILL NOT SAVE THE LIVES OF INNOCENT AMERICANS.”