Florida lawmakers passed a gun bill that both defies the NRA and falls short of Parkland survivors’ demands — now it’s up to the governor


rick scott
Governor Rick Scott lays out his school safety proposal during a
press conference at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.,
Friday, Feb 23, 2018.

Press/Mark Wallheiser

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — All eyes are now on Republican Gov. Rick
Scott to see if he’ll sign the Florida legislature’s narrowly
approved response to last month’s high school massacre of 17
people, a measure that isn’t what he called for, falls short of
what survivors demanded, and challenges National Rifle
Association orthodoxy.

“I’m going to take the time and I’m going to read the bill and
I’m going to talk to families,” said Scott, who wouldn’t say
whether he’ll sign it.

The measure would raise the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to
21 and create a waiting period on sales of the weapons. It also
would create a so-called guardian program, enabling school
employees and many teachers to carry handguns if they go through
law enforcement training and their school district agrees to

Other provisions would create new mental health programs for
schools; establish an anonymous tip line where students and
others could report threats to schools, ban bump stocks and
improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state

Scott has gotten top marks from the NRA in the past for
supporting gun-rights measures, but he broke with the lobbying
group after last month’s slayings, calling for raising the
minimum age to purchase any type of gun. He doesn’t support
arming teachers, however, and had wanted lawmakers to adopt his
own $500 million proposal to put one or more law enforcement
officer in every school.

The bill’s narrow passage reflected a mix of Republicans and
Democrats in support and opposition. Survivors were split as
well, but Andrew Pollack, who lost his 18-year-old daughter
Meadow in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and
Ryan Petty, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Alaina, said there
was enough good in the bill that it should pass.

“More needs to be done, and it’s important for the country to be
united in the same way the 17 families united in support of this
bill,” Pollack said after the vote. “My precious daughter
Meadow’s life was taken, and there’s nothing I can do to change
that, but make no mistake, I’m a father and I’m on a mission. I’m
on a mission to make sure I’m the last dad to ever read a
statement of this kind.”

Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a former Parkland city
commissioner, ended the eight hours of debate with an emotional
account of seeing the high school after the shooting, attending
victims’ funerals and working with students and families while
the House was forming the legislation. He broke down in tears
after talking about how his 4-year-old son’s writing teacher lost
her daughter in the attack.

“You don’t need to stand with me. I don’t need you to stand with
me. I need you to stand with the families,” Moskowitz said.

Republican Rep. Jay Fant, who is running for attorney general,
said raising the minimum age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21 was
unconstitutional, and he voted no.

“I just can’t imagine that Nikolas Cruz can commit such a heinous
crime and then as a result we tell, potentially, a 20-year-old
single mother living alone that she cannot purchase a firearm to
defend herself,” Fant said.

florida protest NRA rick scott
Feb. 21, 2018 file photo shows students at the entrance to the
office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott with boxes of petitions for gun
control reform, at the state Capitol in Tallahassee,

Associated Press/Gerald

Democratic Rep. Kristin Jacobs, whose district includes Stoneman
Douglas, voted yes, even though she doesn’t like the idea of
arming teachers.

“There is a cultural divide in this room, in this state and
across the country. And there’s a bill before us that is not
perfect,” she said.

Cruz was formally charged on Wednesday with 17 counts of
first-degree murder. The grand jury in Fort Lauderdale also
indicted the 19-year-old on 17 counts of attempted murder for the
Valentine’s Day massacre, which also wounded more than a dozen

Cruz’s public defender has said he will plead guilty if
prosecutors take the death penalty off the table and sentence him
to life in prison instead. Prosecutors have 45 days to decide.

James and Kimberly Snead, who gave Cruz a home after his mother
died late last year, testified before the grand jury. James Snead
and the couple’s attorney, Jim Lewis, wore silver “17” pins to
honor the victims.

“We’ll let justice take its course at this point,” Lewis said.
“They still don’t know what happened, why this happened. They
don’t have any answers. They feel very badly for everybody.”

The governor, who is expected to mount a US Senate campaign to
oust incumbent Democrat US Bill Nelson, is in a tough spot,
politically, after splitting with President Donald Trump and some
Republicans over what should be done.

Nelson mocked Scott as lacking “guts” for skipping an emotionally
charged town hall forum attended by survivors of the shooting,
and criticized Scott over the incentives Florida has offered to
gun manufacturers. Nelson also called for universal background
checks and a ban of the types of assault rifles used in the
Parkland shooting.

Polls suggest voters in Florida want tougher restrictions than
what’s in the bill before Scott. A Quinnipiac University poll
done more than a week after the shootings said 62 percent support
a nationwide ban on “assault weapons” and 96 percent support
background checks on all gun buyers. The poll had a margin of
error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.


Anderson reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Replogle
reported from Parkland, Florida. Associated Press writers Gary
Fineout in Tallahassee, Florida, and Freida Frisaro, David
Fischer and Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.


Follow the AP’s complete coverage of the Florida school shooting
here: https://apnews.com/tag/Floridaschoolshooting


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