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Florida Lawmakers Pass Gun Control Measure, But Governor’s Response Uncertain


Flowers and mementos are seen the day students and parents came for voluntary campus orientation at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 25, 2018.
Flowers and mementos are seen the day students and parents came for voluntary campus orientation at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 25, 2018.

Florida lawmakers on Wednesday passed new gun legislation despite the National Rifle Association lobbying against it, displaying the effect of the recent Parkland school shooting on lawmakers’ attitudes toward gun control.

The state House of Representatives voted 67-50 to approve the bill Wednesday after the state Senate approved it Monday. It goes now to Florida Governor Rick Scott, who supports most but not all of the provisions in the bill. He told reporters Wednesday, “I am going to read the bill, and I am going to talk to parents. ... My goal is that this never happens again to a parent in our state.”

Scott pledged to read the bill “line by line” but did not promise to sign it.

The gun legislation came after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which a 19-year-old former student allegedly killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15-style assault weapon. That former student, Nikolas Cruz, was formally indicted Wednesday on 34 counts — 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

Bill's provisions

The bill calls for a three-day waiting period for the purchase of most long guns and a rise in the minimum age for buying such weapons from 18 to 21. It also bans the possession or sale of bump stocks, devices that can rig guns to shoot with the speed of automatic weapons.

Bump stocks were not a factor in the Parkland shooting, but they were used in a mass shooting in Las Vegas in October in which 58 people died and have been part of the gun control conversation since then.

According to the Florida legislation, state law enforcement officers would be given power to temporarily remove weapons from people deemed to be at risk of committing violence. It would also establish a new judicial process for removal of guns and ammunition from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

The Florida bill also provides nearly $100 million to improve school security and $67 million for a program that would allow school districts to voluntarily train and arm school employees to act as “marshals” for school defense. The “school marshals” would have to pass 132 hours of law enforcement training and undergo a background check and diversity training.

The bill also instructs state law enforcement agents to set up a mobile app allowing members of the public to report threats anonymously. It gives additional funding to school mental health services and security officers. And it allocates $1 million for a memorial to the victims of the Parkland shooting.

No ban on assault weapons

Parkland students, who have mobilized a gun control effort since the shooting, have been demanding a ban on the sale of assault weapons, but that is not included in the current bill.

NRA Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer issued an “emergency alert” to its members in Florida, urging them to tell their lawmakers to vote against the bill, arguing that the waiting period, the new age limit and the bump stock ban would have no effect on crime rates.

In the end, however, the cry was drowned out by the voices of those affected by the shooting, a factor many lawmakers cited in their decision to back the bill.