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Seeking To Make Schools Safer, Florida Legislators Take Up Gun Measures

Protesters listen during the Senate Rules Committee meeting on gun safety at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.
Mark Wallheiser AP
Protesters listen during the Senate Rules Committee meeting on gun safety at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.

House and Senate Republican lawmakers in Florida unveiled a package of sweeping gun control proposals on Monday, which they hope to pass before a legislative recess in two weeks.

The measures are aimed at making schools safer for children but present a challenge to the National Rifle Association's grip on the state's Republican leaders, including the self-professed gun-toting governor, who presented his own plan Friday.

If passed, it will be the first time in more than a decade that lawmakers advance any legislation opposed by the NRA, according to the Tampa Bay Times.


The bills under consideration by the Senate Rules Committee address several concerns raised by gun-control advocates who have been pressuring politicians to enact more protective measures in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Many advocates attended Monday's hearing wearing orange T-shirts with the slogan Gun Reform Now.

The GOP plan bears several similarities to the one proposed Gov. Rick Scott; both would raise the legal purchasing age of firearms to 21 from 18, implement a ban on bump stocks, increase school safety protocols and give police and courts more authority to take guns out of the hands of anyone deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Where they diverge, is in the debate over arming qualified school teachers. Like President Trump, Republican lawmakers argue student safety would be bolstered if teachers with concealed-carry permits and at least 132 hours of weapons training could carry guns on campus. Under the changes they would be acting under auspices of local law enforcement.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is a gun-rights activist and helped craft the plan. NPR's Greg Allen reported the Republican called it the most far-reaching proposal of any of the 50 states.

Student victims, Democratic leaders and Scott oppose the strategy, which is being called a "marshal plan."


In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Scott said he opposes the idea of giving teachers guns. "I want our teachers to teach. And I want our law enforcement officers to be able to protect the students," Scott said on the show. "I want each group to focus on what they're good at."

But, the Herald-Tribune reported, the governor would "authorize sheriff's offices to train school personnel to help protect students, if sought by local school boards."

The state GOP also goes a step further in seeking to impose a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases.

One provision not included in the bills lawmakers are considering is a primary concern for student activists from Douglas High School: a ban on high-powered semiautomatic rifles, including the AR-15 which was used by the gunman to kill 17 students and employees. The Tampa Bay Times reported Democrats, who are largely outnumbered, are seeking to add an amendment to one of the bills that would make buying an AR-15 illegal.

Other security measures backed by leaders from both parties include additional funding to "harden schools" with metal detectors, bulletproof glass, steel doors and upgraded locks. And Greg reports, there is bipartisan support for expanding mental health services in schools.

The House Rules Committee will take up a similar package on Tuesday.

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