Sen. Greg Steube entered into his first year as a state senator with big hopes of passing sweeping pro-gun bills in Florida. But it appears one of the state’s top lawmakers has put the kabosh on his ambitions early, sending his gun bills to the legislative graveyard on the first day of session.
On Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores, R-Miami, effectively said she wouldn’t support Steube’s 10 gun proposals, which would have included airport carry, campus carry and open carry in Florida.
Steube had a small victory when the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill which would allow concealed weapons permit holders to temporarily store their firearms in courthouses, but the victory was only short-lived.
Flores, a key vote on the Judiciary Committee, vowed she wouldn’t support Steube’s 10 other bills, which means they would have virtually no chance of making it onto the Senate floor.
Flores is one of five Republicans and four Democrats on the committee, so if she votes against bills and all Democrats vote in lockstep, Steube’s gun bills would be sent to their graves early.
Flores said her decision shouldn’t come as a shock to those who have followed her career -- and to those who read up on her gun history, it appears Flores has opposed much of Steube’s bill for quite some time.
In January, Dan Zimmerman of the Truth About Guns, a gun-related website, said he had called Flores’ office and was accidentally told she did not support Steube’s original proposal, SB 140, which would have legalized open carry. Zimmerman was later told Flores was still reviewing her options on the bill at the time.
Flores was also one of three Republican lawmakers who demanded a special session after the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting in January.
“Throughout my personal, professional, and legislative career I have expressed concerns with the reduction of traditional gun-free zones,” Flores told Sunshine State News Tuesday evening. “This is not something new nor should it be a surprise to those who follow the legislative process.”
But Flores hasn’t always been on the opposite side of gun legislation. She, too, had been an advocate of guns, even receiving a 100 percent rating from the NRA in 2015. The NRA also endorsed Flores during her first bid for the Senate in 2010.
Flores said she was voting in favor with her district, which leans Democratic.
“My constituents in Miami-Dade and Monroe have been vocal in that this view reflects their opinions," she said.
The National Rifle Association was largely unhappy with Flores’ actions on Tuesday, questioning why the senator would come out against the bills.
“I thought that the Senate was an independent body,” NRA’s Marion Hammer told SSN. “There are 40 members. I’m unaware the entire Senate has authorized her to speak for them.”
Tuesday’s events came as a massive blow to Steube, who has led the charge for pro-gun bills since being elected to the Florida Legislature. Throughout his career, he has campaigned largely on conservative issues, especially on guns.
Steube ran for the SD 23 seat against former Republican Rep. Ray Pilon, who told Sunshine State News pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association and their lobbyist Marion Hammer were pivotal in getting his opponent elected to the state Senate.
Pilon also said the NRA would have it out for anyone who voted against their bills in the Florida Legislature -- and at that point, it could mean Flores for whichever office she pursues after her Senate term is up.
“If I disagreed with [Marion Hammer] on campus carry, she crucified me politically,” Pilon said. “She was a major influence in getting Steube elected and defeating me and the other candidates.”
Pilon said many lawmakers have cowered in fear of Hammer and the NRA.
“My experience with many legislators and even committee chairs was, even if they disagreed with her they were politically afraid to challenge her,” Pilon said. “She also was influential in removing Senator [Miguel Diaz de la Portilla]..[who] would not hear the guns-on-campus bill last year.”
Flores doesn’t seem to be too afraid of the NRA. She had no issues voting against a series of bills the organization held near and dear, despite it being a relatively unpopular stance with her fellow GOP lawmakers, most of whom support Second Amendment issues.
Flores’ Senate term will end in 2018, and she is rumored to be exploring a run for Mayor of Miami once her time in the Legislature is up. Flores currently resides in a Democratic-leaning district, but it wouldn't be unheard of for the NRA to find a candidate to primary her should she decide to run for another office. That could prove to be especially alarming for Flores since primary turnout tends to be low in Miami-Dade races.
While gun issues might not be a pivotal debate in Miami-Dade, the NRA is frequently known to strongarm candidates who have opposed its agendas in the past. Like Pilon, former Rep. Charles McBurney’s ambitions to become a local judge were dashed after the NRA ran a furious attack campaign on him for voting against Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” burden of proof bill in 2016.
Some gave Flores a new nickname on Tuesday: “Madame DLP,” after former Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, who killed off numerous gun bills in the Senate last year.
Other gun groups like Florida Carry trashed DLP after he axed the bills at the time, while sources close to Senate leadership said DLP was merely a victim of a GOP decision to have him spearhead sending the legislation into the legislative boneyard.
DLP lost his reelection campaign later that year.
Gun control groups like Everytown and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense seemed overjoyed at the new development and praised Flores’ work to kill off the bills.
“Meet Florida's new #gunsense champion -- Senator Flores,” Michelle Gajda, president of the Florida Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, tweeted. “Moms Demand is proud to stand with her against dangerous bills.”
Sunshine State News attempted to contact Everytown, but had not received a response at the time of this article’s posting.
Flores denied meeting with Everytown or Moms Demand Action prior to today’s meeting, but had not responded whether she spoke to Hammer or the NRA prior to shooting down Steube’s legislation.