Florida lawmaker explains what to expect during legislative session

Bills on statute of limitations, 3D-printed guns on tap

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida's legislative session is still several months away, but already State Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, has filed several bills ranging from banning 3D-printed plastic guns to ending the statute of limitations for minors who are victims of sexual assault. 

Stewart joined News 6 anchor Justin Warmoth on "The Weekly on ClickOrlando.com" to discuss the bills that she's filed and the challenges they face in Florida's Republican-dominated Legislature.

Here's a portion of the interview, which airs Sunday at 8 a.m. on News 6. 

Warmoth: You have filed a bill that's called the "ghost gun" bill, which basically bans 3D-printed guns. Is the concern with (3D-printed guns) how lightweight they are and how hard they are to detect? 

Stewart: They're made out of polymer plastic, and that's the strongest kind of plastic they can find to be able to build these guns. Well, they're not really built, they're scanned through a machine that engineers and architects use, so these machines are readily available. They can go down and they scan them and they can make their own 3D gun. It has no metal in it until you put the bullet in, but you can keep them separate. And they won't be detected in metal detectors that we may put in schools or airports or any of the security areas. There would be no background checks, so you wouldn't know who has them or who doesn't. They can make 15 to 20 of them and have a whole gang of people go out. It's really not necessary for us to have that kind of gun here. We don't have many of them, but we do have some. I think the only way to address this -- because everyone gets so upset when they think we're taking their guns away -- is we need say at the beginning that we're not going to have this particular gun. So I'm hoping that this one will be easier to pass. 

Warmoth: It's crazy. I mean, they're making 3D-printed rockets nowadays, too. So, it seems (this bill) is trying to stop something before it could get out of hand. 

Stewart: It could get out of hand, but right now they're legal. You can possess one. You can make one. You can make 20. You can make 100. There's no limit on how many you can make. And there's no detection through the metal detector because I don't think you're going to put the bullet in the gun. You're going to keep them separated. I just think it's unnecessary for us to have that. 

Warmoth: In your fourth year of trying to get assault weapons banned in the state of Florida, what do you think it's going to take -- whether it's here at the state level or at the federal level -- to see that kind of legislation get passed? 

Stewart: I've been trying to follow the national conversation, and I have changed my bill that I have put in every year so that it somewhat reflects what the conversation is. So, this year what I'm filing is a simple bill that says we're going to ban AK (47) and AR (15). That's it. High-capacity magazines, you can have up to 10 rounds. That's it. You know, rifles and the pistols, yes I know they can kill, too, but (AK-47 and AR-15) are the two weapons, and the Sig Sauer that was used at Pulse, these are the weapons of choice by mass shooters. I think that's where we need to concentrate our efforts. I don't expect it to get too far, but I've tried really hard to take the argument away that we're trying to take your guns. I do not want to take their guns. I do want to take military-style weapons away from the public. It's dangerous for our law enforcement. It's dangerous to the public. I don't think it's going to go far, but we'll see. I'm going to work it really hard because I have reduced it significantly. 

Warmoth: If that doesn't go far, there is a ballot initiative out there that is in the works. And I know it's going to be very tough to get that done and put it up to Florida voters on the 2020 ballot. It has a big challenge. Let's say it does get on the ballot in 2020, do you feel that Floridians -- 60% of them -- will vote in favor of this? Do you think (their concern) is widespread and that number is attainable?

Stewart: I do, I do. And the bill that I have basically reflects the same language that is in that initiative. If it gets thrown out for some reason, I've got a bill that hopefully we can look at for a law. 

Warmoth: We've only talked about a few bills, but you have 16 bills that you've filed. 

Stewart: I have 17. And I have about eight more in the hopper. 

Warmoth: Is there one that you're the most optimistic about? 

Stewart: Yes, my sexual assault bill. It takes the statute of limitations out for 15 to 18-year-olds. So, after it goes into effect, they will not have any statute of limitations placed on them because young people, it may take them 10 to 15 years before they're ready to mention anything. They certainly don't want to tell their parents about it. They're embarrassed. And we just need to give them more time. 

Warmoth: We saw that with the high-profile case of Jeffrey Epstein. So is that when this all came to light or have you been thinking about doing this type of legislation for awhile? 

Stewart: No, but Epstein was another huge disappointment on the way they handled it down in the Palm Beach area. This would allow all of those girls who came forward in the Epstein case to have had an opportunity -- if it had been in place -- to come at any time.  

Warmoth: Some critics of this would say that it impedes a defendant's due process, and it'd be tough to find witnesses and establish an alibi, say, 30 years down the road. What would you say to those critics? 

Stewart: Yes, and that's part of the legal system. They would have to have people who are reliable that would be able to be a witness on their behalf. It has to go through the courts, they're absolutely right. We are not taking away anybody's rights. We're giving them an opportunity that if they have proof, to prove it. This came to me, quite frankly, from a woman whose name is Donna in Bell Isle. She's 40 years old now, but she was assaulted by a music teacher and she's coming forward just now, so her coming to me made me realize that we really need to do something. She said she was too young and was barely able now to tell her family and husband about what happened. She's 40 and is just coming around to talk about it and wanting to make sure we can maybe put something in place for the future. 

About the Author:

Justin Warmoth joined News 6 in February 2013 as our Brevard County reporter. In March of 2016, after anchoring the weekend mornings since August of 2015, Justin was promoted to weekday morning anchor. You can catch him Monday through Friday mornings from 5-7 a.m. and at noon.