A controversial gun control bill, which permits trained teachers to carry firearms, just awaits Governor Rick Scott's signature.
The US state of Florida has passed legislation that will impose new restrictions on firearm sales and permit trained teachers to be armed.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act passed the legislature’s lower house on Wednesday, a day after clearing the senate. It has been sent to Governor Rick Scott to sign.
The gun control bill will see the gun-buyer age limit raised from 18 to 21, force a three-day waiting period, ban modification devices like bump stocks that turn semi-automatic rifles into machine guns, and increase funding for armed school resource officers and mental health services.
The Guardian Program
With the exception of the powerful NRA lobby group, there was little opposition to the aforementioned changes, but lawmakers were less sure about the impact of a so-called ‘Guardian Program’.
Under this component of the bill, school employees and teachers would be permitted to carry handguns if they complete law enforcement training, and if the school district with which they’re attached participates in the program.
It is a follow-on from President Donald Trump’s comments last month that an armed teacher “could end the attack very quickly”.
Democrat legislators reluctantly accepted the program as not to sabotage the bill. It is seen as a necessary compromise.
“I’m taking and swallowing that poison pill. As much as I don’t want to, I can’t look in the mirror and leave here and think ‘I did nothing to help’,” said Representative Joseph Geller.
“I understand the angst about the guardian program but I can’t help but think about the coaches who literally ran in as shields to protect their students… while guys with guns were standing outside,” said Republican member Chris Latvala.
I understand the angst about the guardian program but I can’t help but think about the coaches who literally ran in as shields to protect their students.
“If there are school personnel that want to go to the training to help shield the students and protect them, they should have the opportunity,” he continued.
President Donald Trump congratulated Florida on the legislation, saying state lawmakers “passed a lot of very good legislation last night”.
No ban on assault rifles
Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who have been campaigning tirelessly for stricter gun laws since the massacre on Valentine’s Day that killed 17 people, have mixed emotions about the bill.
Sofie Whitney, 18, who survived the shooting and travelled to Tallahassee to demand legislative reform, said it was a step in the right direction.
“What he’s doing is at least a start,” she said. “We’re glad that we’ve made progress in such a short time, which is obviously an accomplishment, and we’re more determined to talk to more people to get more things done.”
The Governor has 15 days to sign the reform package, and he has not yet indicated whether he intends to do so.
“I’m going to take the time and I’m going to read the bill and I’m going to talk to families,” Scott said.