© 2023 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Thousands of people support students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in a rally for gun control at the Florida capitol (2/21/18).The Florida legislature is poised to pass some of the most sweeping gun control and mental health reforms in more than 20 years. The moves come as lawmakers face pressure from students affected by the Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.On Valentine's Day, a 19-year-old in Parkland opened fire on his former classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He killed 14 students, three adults, and injured 14 others. There were warning signs, yet, all, including a tip to the FBI, were missed.That day, school safety measures in place, like school resource officers, restricted access and fencing--all failed.In the wake of the shooting, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas have mobilized, calling on the legislature to take greater action to prevent school and mass shootings. Lawmakers, it seems, are finally listening.https://youtu.be/6PRPEfu7WPg

Gun Safety Bills Now Head To Full Florida House, Senate

Mark Wilson
Getty Images

A number of public safety proposals have passed their first House committee, allowing them to now head to the floor. Like the Senate version bill, it does not include an assault weapons ban. Still, more people are starting to agree that while this isn’t the best bill, it’s not totally bad either.

Patti Cotesh is a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school. She says she was there when a 19-year-old former student shot and killed 17 people and left more than a dozen injured.

“And, I can tell you that I never want that experience again,” she said. “I walked the students to safety to the middle school behind the high school. And, I had students throwing themselves over fences, panicking and wanting to jump in canals and trying to keep them focus and on their way to safety.”

She spoke about the bill that includes a ban on the sale of bump stocks, raises the minimum age to buy any gun to 21, and could allow law enforcement to seize weapons from those deemed mentally ill and likely pose a threat.

And, during a gun safety proposal’s first House hearing, Cotesh gave lawmakers mixed reviews.

“So, I want to applaud you in moving forward with this legislation,” she added. “I am in favor of this bill. I’m not in favor of all of it. I do not believe in arming teachers in our schools. I believe that we should have a gun-free zone, except for the SRO [school resource officers]. And, I speak for all of the parents and the teachers who just want to be able to come to school and know that we’re safe and we’re protected and we can teach and we can learn and we can move forward in our lives.”

But, even with changes made to the bill Tuesday, incoming House speaker Jose Oliva says the bill still makes it voluntary for a person to be designated as part of the “school marshal program.”

These designated people who are essentially deputized could include teachers, who completed law enforcement officer training to carry a gun on school grounds.

It’s a provision that the National Rifle Association’s Marion Hammer likes. She also supports other parts as well.

“We support hardening our schools, armed security in our schools, whether it’s law enforcement or parents, we support protecting our kids,” Hammer said. “And we have long supported keeping guns out of the hands of those who have mental illness.”

What Hammer doesn’t like is the gun control provisions of the bill.

“These provisions are nothing more than an attack on the Second Amendment rights of law abiding people,” she added. “We urge you to separate the bill, and focus on securing our schools and making the dangerously mentally ill separate from having access to guns. Do it without adding unnecessary, ineffective gun control that won’t stop massacres and only infringe on the rights of the law abiding people of this state.”

She also took issue with attempts to attach an assault weapons ban to the bill, that failed on an 18-11 vote—to the disappointment of many parents of the Parkland high school shooting victims.

Paige Block says the ban is something that should be included. The Parkland mother of four kids made the trip to Tallahassee to talk to members of the House Appropriations Committee.

“I’m here, so this never happens again,” she said. “What I’m asking is a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high capacity magazines for firearms, and bump stocks. The answer for this problem is so simple. You all can change history. The world is watching us. You guys can be heroes. Be leaders. I will continue to make our schools safe. I just want to say thank you for what you’ve done, I approve this bill as a first step, and I look forward to seeing the changes in the future.”

Dan Daley also had similar sentiments. He’s a commissioner for Coral Springs, where a majority of Parkland students live. He’s also a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“I want to thank you because I know that both sides were involved in crafting this piece of legislation, and I know that because neither side is happy,” said Daley. “So, I’d like to give credit. That’s usually a sign of a great piece of legislation. Is it perfect? Is it ideal? No, but is it a first, comprehensive step? Yes! So, on behalf of my community and my residents, and the folks from Stoneman Douglas High school, I’d like to thank you very much. This is the worst tragedy to ever happen in Florida and one of the worst school shootings ever. Let’s make it the last.”

And,  Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Coral Springs) says he too has mixed feelings on the bill, even though he voted for it.

“We have an opportunity to save lives,” he said. “To those of you in the majority, do not take my vote for granted. For those of you in the minority, I’m not happy with this bill. 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.”

And, the House committee passed the measure 23-6 with some Democrats opposed. And, after passing its last committee Tuesday, its Senate version is now heading to the floor.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.