The Florida Senate held a rare Saturday session, discussing legislation aimed at making schools safer, following the February 14th mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 14 students and three faculty members dead.
The sweeping proposal, as currently drawn, would raise the age to 21 for the purchase of rifles and other long guns, create a three-day waiting period on purchases of rifles and address school-hardening and mental health issues.
Additionally, it would create what is being called a ‘school marshal’ program that would allow specially trained teachers and other school workers, who are deputized by local law enforcement authorities, to carry guns to school.
The legislation is drawing criticism from both sides of the political spectrum, with gun-control advocates saying the bill does not do enough and gun-rights supporters saying the measure would penalize law-abiding gun owners.
Senator Bill Galvano, who sponsored the measure, called it a good compromise.
“We have to start somewhere,” he said. “We have to take more seriously than ever before the issue of security in our schools, the safety in our schools. This bill really is unprecedented.”
Democrats proposed several amendments to the bill Saturday, including an outright ban on AR-15 rifles like the one used in the school shooting, as well as a two-year moratorium on sales.
Both amendments failed.
Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon said the high-powered rifle is the one common thread in many recent mass shootings.
“What you can say about all of them is that they had an AR-15,” he said. “So, we can do a lot of things, but this is kind of the one thing that is consistent.”
The final version of the Senate bill is expected to be debated and voted on Monday.
If passed by the Senate, the House would then debate the legislation during the final week of the 2018 legislative session.
Any bill that comes from the legislature would ultimately have to be approved by Governor Rick Scott, who has said that he opposes the “school marshal” portion of the bill.