Florida House committee approves bill modifying gun laws following Parkland shooting

Bill would raise minimum age to buy gun, require a three-day waiting period

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Florida House committee responded to the Parkland school shootings by approving a bill that would raise the minimum age to buy any gun, require a three-day waiting period for rifle purchases and create a program that could allow some teachers to carry concealed weapons in the classroom.

The 23-6 vote Tuesday followed more than four hours of emotional discussion, including from parents of some of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day.

Alex Schachter's father was among those who had been rallying for change in Tallahassee.

"I came here to ensure no other father feels the grief I endure every minute, every hour, every day," Max Schachter said.

The approval came hours after the same committee voted against an amendment that would have banned weapons like the AR-15 rifle used by Nikolas Cruz in the Parkland shootings.

Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a former Parkland vice mayor, said he didn't like the bill, but still voted for it. He explained, "It doesn't go far enough, and now it goes too far in other areas. But the NRA opposes it and I will not vote with the NRA."

His views reflected many of those who testified before the committee, saying they wanted a ban on assault rifles that the committee rejected, and that they opposed the idea of arming teachers.

Some parents told Local 10 News that they wanted some assurance that Florida would even have a new gun bill.

"The governor has assured us that he is almost certain that -- obviously he can't guarantee it -- but that the law will pass," parent John Willis said. "Even though it doesn't have the things that we want -- we want other things in it -- he said at least there is going to be some historic change in Florida, and that's what he asked us to bring back to our really articulate kids."

Both the House and Senate versions of the new gun bill call for the age requirement to purchase a gun in Florida be raised to 21. The versions also call for a bump stock ban, but there are certain loopholes.

The House voted to include a program to arm teachers, while the Senate version adds a way to opt-out of  the program.

"I definitely don't want to be returning to school and having my teacher have a gun," Stoneman Douglas student Annabel Claprood said.  

The vote came a day after about 1,000 protesters wearing orange T-shirts with #gunreformnow on them held a rally on the steps of the Florida Capitol.

The Monday morning demonstration was led by former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who's a Democratic candidate for Florida governor.

This is the second wave of protests in Tallahassee. Last week, thousands of people rallied at the Capitol.

The gun control demonstrations were sparked by the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14.

Gov. Rick Scott does not support a ban on semiautomatic weapons, but the changes he does approve of are opposed by the National Rifle Association. Those changes include strengthening background checks to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people and banning bump stocks.

About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."