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

March 8, 2018 - 9:53 AM
A rally outside the Florida Capitol urging lawmakers to reform gun laws in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Reuters)

PARKLAND, Fla. — Florida state lawmakers gave final passage on Wednesday to a gun-safety package that raises the legal age for buying rifles and imposes a three-day waiting period on all firearms sales, while also allowing the arming of some public school personnel.

The bill was spurred by the shooting rampage three weeks ago that left 17 students and staff 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 February 14 massacre.

Supporters have defended the bill saying most school shootings are committed with handguns.

The bill also overcame strenuous objections to provisions permitting school staff to carry guns on the job — a measure critics see as posing a particular risk to minority students who they say as 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 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 and was sent to the desk of Governor Rick Scott, also a Republican, on Wednesday’s 67-50 vote in the Florida House of Representatives.

The bill automatically becomes law within 15 days unless the governor vetoes it. A spokeswoman for Scott said on Tuesday he had not yet decided whether to support the bill.

As legislators debated in Tallahassee, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited Stoneman Douglas on the first full day of classes since the shooting.