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Florida lawmakers pass school safety bill

Posted at 7:00 PM, Mar 07, 2018

The Florida House on Wednesday passed legislation that would impose new restrictions on firearm sales and allow some teachers and staff to carry guns in school.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act was spurred by the February 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida. The bill, which passed 67-50, now goes to Gov. Rick Scott. He has 15 days to sign it.

Earlier in the day, Scott expressed reservations about the provision to arm school personnel. He vowed to review the bill "line by line" before signing it.

"The group that I'm going to be talking to -- the groups that I care most about right now because it impacted them so much -- is the families," Scott said.

Speaking on behalf of the 17 families who lost loved ones in the shooting, Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killed, urged Scott to sign the bill.

"We stand united in asking him to sign this historic bill into law," he said after the bill's passage.

"We thank the House and Senate for voting in favor of protecting our children, but more needs to be done and it's important for the country to unite in the same way the 17 families united in support of this bill."

Scott also concerned about waiting period

Lawmakers debated various forms of the bill in the Senate and the House, in an effort to rush it into law before the end of the legislation session on Friday. The final version includes the following measures:

- Raise the age to purchase a firearm to 21 from 18;

- Require a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases, with some exceptions;

- Ban the sale or possession of bump fire stocks, which allow a semiautomatic weapon to fire more like an automatic weapon;

- Give law enforcement more authority to seize weapons and ammunition from those deemed mentally unfit or otherwise a threat;

- Provide additional funding for armed school resource officers and mental health services.

The state Senate on Monday amended the most contentious provision in the bill, which would establish a voluntary program that allowing school personnel to be armed‎ if they undergo 144 hours of training.

Under the change, those who "exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers" wouldn't be allowed to participate in the program. Teachers who perform additional duties, like coaching football or heading the drama club, would be allowed to participate, as would other school staff like administrators and cafeteria workers.

Shortly after the Senate limited which teachers would be allowed to be armed, the governor's office called the move "a step in the right direction," but by Tuesday night, Scott's office had restated his opposition. Scott also expressed concern over the three-day waiting period.

Whether to sign the bill is an important political consideration for Scott, who is term-limited and is widely expected to challenge Florida's Democratic US senator, Bill Nelson, in the November midterm election. Florida's House and Senate are majority Republican.