Florida lawmakers pass gun-school safety bill three weeks after massacre

From Reuters - March 7, 2018

(Reuters) - Florida state lawmakers gave final passage on Wednesday to a gun-safety bill that would raise the legal age for buying rifles, impose a three-day waiting period on all firearms sales, and allow the arming of some public school employees.

The package was spurred by the shooting rampage three weeks ago that killed 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and led to an extraordinary lobbying campaign by young survivors of the massacre.

But the legislation, while containing a number of provisions student activists and their parents had embraced, left out one of their chief demands - a ban on assault-style weapons like the one used in the Feb. 14 massacre.

Supporters defended the bill, saying that most school shootings, which have occurred with a frightening frequency in the United States during the past few years, are committed with handguns.

The measure will automatically become law within 15 days unless vetoed by Governor Rick Scott, a Republican. A spokeswoman for Scott said on Tuesday he had not yet decided whether to support the bill.

The bill overcame strenuous objections to provisions permitting school staff to carry guns on the job. Critics see that as posing a particular risk to minority students who they say are more likely to be shot in the heat of a disciplinary situation or if mistaken as an intruder.

Swift action in the Republican-controlled statehouse, where the National Rifle Association (NRA) has long held sway, signaled a possible turning point in the national debate between gun control advocates and proponents of firearms rights enshrined in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The measure narrowly cleared the state Senate on Monday before passing in the House of Representatives on Wednesday in a67-50 vote. Ten House Democrats joined 57 Republicans in supporting the bill, while 19 Republicans and 31 Democrats voted against it.

As legislators debated in Tallahassee, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited Stoneman Douglas on the first full day of classes since the shooting, while a Broward County grand jury indicted accused gunman Nikolas Cruz on 17 counts of premeditated murder.


The action by Floridas lawmakers represented both a break with the NRA on gun sale restrictions and a partial acceptance of its proposition that the best defense against armed criminals is the presence of good guys with guns.


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