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Lawmakers defend no vote on assault rifle ban

Posted at 10:36 PM, Feb 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-21 22:36:21-05

All 6 house members representing Collier, Lee and Charlotte Counties voted with all their Republican colleagues against a Democratic bill that would have banned assault rifles statewide.

The vote came down as survivors of last week's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School looked on in the gallery.

"I completely empathize and sympathize with the people who want immediate action, but what they have to understand is legislative bodies cannot respond in emotional manners," said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples).

Donalds, and fellow Representative Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Ft. Myers), say they couldn't support the bill because it was introduced on the floor, rather than in committee, where all bills pass through before being voted on.

"I think it was just trying to put a spotlight, on those of us who have not made an informed decision on the best way to handle this situation," said Fitzenhagen.

Both lawmakers say there won't be enough time in the session to fully vet and vote on an outright assault rifle ban.  However, Representative Matt Caldwell says he's open to discussing a bill that raises the age of purchasing an assault rifle from 18-21,  ban bump stocks, and create gun violence restraining order.

"We're going to have this debate in committee, I expect next week, we'll bring it to the floor and actually talk about things that make a difference," said Caldwell (R-Lee County).

4-In-Your-Corner reached out to the House Democratic Minority for comment on the vote, but did not hear back.

Representative Fitzenhagen says the FBI is partially to blame for the Parkland tragedy, and has called for its director to resign.