Labarga said the move was inspired, in part, by the massacre in June at an Orlando nightclub. The shooter, Omar Mateen, formerly was employed by G4S, the global security firm, and had worked at courthouse facilities in downtown Fort Pierce.
“We want to move ahead quickly on this issue – and stay ahead,” said Labarga, a former Palm Beach County judge, prosecutor and public defender. “There can be no question of its urgency. It is underscored by the shock, fear, and grief we all have witnessed and experienced this long summer.”
The Trial Courthouse Security Workgroup formed by Labarga will include chief judges from eight judicial circuits, two attorneys and a staff member from the Office of State Courts Administrator. Those named to the workgroup have agreed to serve for two years, Labarga said.
Leading the panel will be Margaret Steinbeck, a judge in Southwest Florida’s 20th Judicial Circuit and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.
“The workgroup will help advance the mission of the judicial branch and increase current levels of safety for all those who use our courthouses, from Pensacola to Key West,” Labarga said.
Florida Democratic lawmakers continued to push Tuesday for a special legislative session in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre to ban people on the federal “no-fly” or terrorist watch list from obtaining weapons.
Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat campaigning for Congress, and Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, said that 46 Democratic members of the House and Senate have certified the need for a special session, a procedural move that sets in motion a poll of all member, conducted by the Florida Secretary of State’s office.
If 60 percent of each chamber agrees, a special session would be set. It’s a longshot, though. Republicans have overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate and so far, leaders have shown no interest in a special session.
“Nothing would change for one single law-abiding citizen or NRA member who wants to buy a gun,” Moskowitz said.
“They would be able to do so without any change in the way that happens now so long as they are not a suspected terrorist. But for the safety of this nation, for the safety of our people in Florida, we have to close this breach in our nation’s security, shut this loophole that threatens our safety, with or without Washington’s help,” he added.
Local and federal law enforcement officials said Wednesday that accused gunman Omar Mateen did not apparently spend the hours leading to the massacre at an Orlando nightclub casing other locations for possible violence.
“This was the intended point of attack for that night,” said FBI Special Agent Ron Hopper.
Law enforcement said they were still interviewing dozens of people associated with Mateen, but offered few details into recurring speculation that Mateen may have earlier visited Walt Disney World or other Orlando-area theme parks as possible targets.
U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley, also said that it could be a “matter of days, weeks, it could be years,” before the investigation into the attack at the Pulse was completed.
Bentley also would not speak about whether charges could be forthcoming against Mateen family members or associates stemming from the attack.
“He successfully completed the application, had a criminal background check and there is nothing in that record that would have disqualified this individual who is a U.S. citizen who had a clean criminal record…from receiving those licenses,” Putnam said.
Mateen received his initial permits in 2007 and was renewed most recently last year. Putnam wouldn’t talk about any exchange his office may have had with federal investigators over the years, but he insisted Mateen was cleared for licensing.
“There was no disqualifying offense,” Putnam said.
The state Agriculture Department has not made public Mateen’s application, saying it holds information that could help investigators. Putnam said “it’s fairly rich with data.”