Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano is not backing down after finding himself in the crosshairs of the National Rifle Association for receiving a sizable political contribution from a group that backs gun restrictions and has ties to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is scheduled to become Senate president after the November elections, pointed Monday to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people. After the shooting, lawmakers passed a bill (SB 7026) that included raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 to purchase rifles and other long guns — a restriction the NRA has challenged in federal court.
“I will make no apologies for the responsible steps we took in a bipartisan manner in the wake of the worst school shooting in our state’s history,” Galvano said.
Galvano’s comments came after NRA Tallahassee lobbyist Marion Hammer, a former national president of the gun-rights organization, called him out for accepting a $200,000 contribution from Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, which has been heavily backed by Bloomberg. The contribution went to a political committee known as Innovate Florida, which is chaired by Galvano.
Hammer, a longtime powerful lobbyist in Tallahassee, sent out an “alert” Monday to members of the NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida about the Sept. 4 contribution to Galvano’s committee.
“Incoming Florida Senate President Bill Galvano calls himself a Republican but is rumored to be the one who colluded with anti-gun Democrats to engineer the gun control package included in SB-7026 this past session,” Hammer wrote to members of the groups. “SB-7026 contained three major gun control provisions and was rammed down the throats of Senate and House Republican legislators.”
“Looks like our Second Amendment Rights were sold for a large contribution from anti-gun former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” Hammer wrote. “All of this while the anti-gunners keep accusing legislators of taking money from NRA. In reality, no Florida Senate or House member or candidate for the Florida Senate or House has received a direct contribution from NRA in almost 20 years.”
The NRA filed a federal lawsuit against the state in March immediately after Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the bill that includes a wide range of school-safety and gun-related measures. Along with the age requirement for gun purchases, it also included imposing a three-day waiting period on buying long guns, and banned what are known as “bump stocks,” which allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic fully automatic weapons. The lawsuit remains pending.
“I have made it clear that as Senate president I will continue to advocate for increased safety and security in our schools. I am grateful for the support,” Galvano said Monday.
The alleged shooter in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School case, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, legally purchased a semiautomatic rifle that was used in the massacre.
Gun-rights supporters have been frustrated in recent years by the Senate, which has blocked proposals such as allowing people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry firearms on college campuses. Bills have stalled after years of the Republican-dominated Legislature generally being supportive of positions backed by groups such as the NRA.