After passing the Florida legislature last week, Governor Rick Scott decided to sign the gun safety legislation into law. Earlier in the week, he told reporters he’d wait before signing it, until he talked to the families who were impacted by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school.
“In the morning that Alaina was killed at school, I had to get to a morning early at work, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye,” said Ryan Petty, speaking to members of the Florida Cabinet.
That’s Ryan Petty, describing why mornings are so hard for him now. He’s one of the many fathers who lost a loved one in last month’s mass school shooting that occurred on Valentine’s Day.
In Petty’s case, his 14-year-old daughter Alaina was killed.
“The families of the victims at Stoneman Douglas are part of a club that no one wants to be a member of,” he added. “It’s not a fun club to be in.”
Andrew Pollack is also a part of that so-called club, since he lost his 18-year-old daughter Meadow in the shooting. Both Pollack and Petty as well as other families have come to Tallahassee to ask lawmakers and other state officials, like Governor Rick Scott, to make sure something is done legislative wise.
“I’m here, so no one else has to do this again,” said Pollack. “I want to be the last father to bury a kid that was killed in a school. So, I’m up here and I’m fighting like a lion.”
And, it looks like his as well as the efforts of many others—like students survivors—have paid off, since the legislature not only passed gun safety legislation, Governor Rick Scott also signed it into law Friday.
It includes a ban on bump stocks—an add-on that can allow a semi-automatic weapon to fire like an automatic weapon with the pull of a single trigger.
It also includes a three-day waiting period for all firearms with some exceptions. In addition, the new law raises the minimum age for anyone to buy a gun from 18 to 21.
And, law enforcement would be able to seize weapons from a person deemed mentally ill and likely poses a threat. A person deemed “mentally defective” by a judge would also not be able to purchase a gun.
There’s also a commission charged with investigating the failings that occurred surrounding what led up to the mass shooting. And, there’s also money for mental health and school safety.
“I called on the legislature to give me a bill that will allow us to make our schools safer, allowing for a much greater law enforcement presence, and for hardening our school buildings,” he said. “This bill does that. I called on the legislature to give me a bill, which provides more funding for mental health services. This bill does that. I called on the legislature to give me a bill, which gives us the ability to seek restraining orders and keep guns away from people with mental health problems and for people who are a danger to themselves and others. This bill does that. I asked for a bill that would ban bump stocks and raise the age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21 and this bill does that.”
With Governor Rick Scott’s approval, the measure became law.
And, Pollack says with this new statute, he’s not going to stop. He’s going to start traveling all around the country to encourage other states to pass similar laws.
“…because I don’t only want to be the last Father to bury a kid in Florida,” he said. “I want to continue on to the other states in this country. So, Florida right now we could lead by example to these other states. I’m not going to stop. With the help of Governor Scott and [Attorney General] Pam [Bondi], I’m going to visit every Governor in every state. I’m going to say, ‘look, this is what we did in Florida. You need to be proactive, so another family doesn’t have to go through what I’ve done or my friend Ryan [Petty].”
Meanwhile, a controversial provision is still included in the bill that could allow for the arming of some teachers and other school personnel. It’s part of a guardian program named after one of the coach’s who lost his life in the mass shooting, while shielding students from bullets.
While Governor Scott says he’s still against it, he says at least it’s voluntary, and must first have the approval of the county’s superintendent and local sheriff’s office. A teacher—who may also be a coach—for example—who wants to participate in the program would then be deputized and must have completed law enforcement training, to be able to carry a gun on the school grounds.
Some have called on the Governor to get rid of that portion of the bill. But, while he can’t take anything out of this bill, he can zero out the funds included in the budget for the guardian program. It’s unclear whether the Governor will go that route.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.