Florida House approves gun-reform bill in response to Parkland shooting

Measure includes provision to arm certain members of school staff

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida House approved a sweeping school safety and gun reform bill Wednesday that would raise the minimum age to buy a semi-automatic rifle and allow certain school staff members to carry weapons.

The bill now to goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who has supported many of the provisions in the bill.

"When the bill makes it to my desk, 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 earlier Wednesday.

State lawmakers drafted the bill, which passed 67 to 50, in response to the mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Seventeen people were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire inside the school.

After the vote, lawmakers gave Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was killed in the shooting, a standing ovation.

Major provisions in the bill include:

  • Raises the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21
  • Adds $400 million for school security and mental health programs
  • Imposes a three-day waiting period for most purchases of guns
  • Establishes a ban on bump stocks, a piece of equipment that make semi-automatic weapons fire faster

House spent more than seven hours debating the plan to arm school employee on Wednesday. Meanwhile, dozens of college students held a "die-in" protest inside the capitol building.

The bill marks a significant shift because Florida is known as being the most gun friendly states in the country. It's the first piece of state legislation since 1996 to add restrictions on guns. Lawmakers passed the bill despite opposition from the National Rifle Association.

The marshal program is supported by the NRA and President Donald Trump. Initially, the bill would allowed all school employees including teachers in classrooms to carry weapons, but the bill was watered down after protests from law enforcement, educators and students.

On Wednesday, lawmakers renamed the marshals "school guardians."

Many of the survivors of the Parkland shooting have been outspoken opponents of the marshal plan. Instead, they have advocated for a ban on semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 rifle used by gunman Nikolas Cruz. Repeated attempts to introduce a semi-automatic weapons ban in the bill failed in both the Senate and the House.

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