Scoring political points in the immediate aftermath of tragedy is nothing new. The response to the Orlando shooting will surely provide numerous examples in the days ahead, but thanks to Sen. Darren Soto, we already have one of our most egregious examples.
Soto, who is currently running for Congress, announced that he will hold a news conference tomorrow to announce a thus-unspecified “tactical proposal to prevent future tragedies” and call for a special legislative session.
Legislative leaders immediately slammed Soto’s call for a special session. Senate President Andy Gardiner called it as a “political stunt,” while House Speaker Steve Crisafulli observed that legislators who “want real change work collaboratively and transparently rather than calling a news conference for a mystery solution.”
Rather than working with community groups and leaders who have been at the forefront of gun control efforts in Florida, Soto has instead, seriously undermined them. Take, for example, the League of Women Voters, which recently led the successful campaign to block campus carry laws in Florida and called for policy action in response to Sunday’s shooting. If the group had hoped to make a nonpartisan call for a special session to enact serious reform, they’d be facing an uphill battle thanks to Soto’s political posturing.
That’s not even the worst of it. In the wake of the Orlando shooting, Soto seems to be painting himself as a leader on gun control. In fact, the opposite is true. Throughout his ten-year-career in the Florida Legislature, Soto has consistently sided with the gun lobby — on everything from “Stand Your Ground” to “Docs vs. Glocks” and more.
Soto even received an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association as a state Representative and as a Senator.
Just last year, Soto voted to strengthen Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” gun law (SB 344), making it harder for prosecutors to try gun cases. Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, a black teenager killed in Jacksonville in a 2012 dispute over loud music, urged the Senate Criminal Justice Committee to vote down SB 344. Soto sided with the gun lobby rather than grieving mothers when he voted for the bill, which the NRA deemed a “must-pass priority.”
In 2014, he voted to extend “immunity” to gun owners who brandish their firearms under the “Stand Your Ground” Law (HB 89).
In 2008, Soto voted for a bill to allow employees to bring their guns to work — even if those employees worked at day care centers (HB 503). The bill was backed by the gun lobby, including NRA. Soto also voted to rescind all local gun laws — including rules against bringing guns into public buildings or city parks. In 2011, he voted for HB 45, a law that prohibits local governments from regulating firearms and ammunition in their communities.
Soto’s pro-gun record is so extreme, he even voted to prohibit doctors from talking to patients about gun safety (HB 155 in 2011). The Florida Pediatric Association opposed the bill (referred to as the “Docs vs. Glocks” bill) — for asking a patient a question that could save his or her child’s life, a doctor in Florida could lose her medical license or be fined $10,000.
Soto has voted for a number of other bills backed by the gun lobby, including an NRA-backed bailout of gun clubs — costing taxpayers $1.2 million (HB 33-A) and a 2015 bill (SB 290) that would allow unlicensed gun holders to carry a firearm in an emergency evacuation. His loyalty to the NRA extends even beyond state lines — he was one of only four Florida democrats who signed onto a 2009 Supreme Court Amicus Brief opposing a Chicago handgun ban.
Make no mistake — politicians like Soto have helped create a toxic environment in which the gun lobby reigns supreme in our state.
For ten years, he’s sided with the NRA in Tallahassee.
It’s worth asking: do we really expect he’d do anything different in D. C.?