Florida Passes First Gun Control Bill In Two Decades

Mar 8, 2018

Last night, the Florida House of Representatives voted 67-50 to pass SB 7026, the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” Florida’s first gun control legislation in 22 years. 

The bill would, among other things, create a program that would arm “some” classroom teachers and staff, establish a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, ban “bump stocks” and, most controversially, raise the minimum age for firearms purchases from 18 to 21 years of age.

It also gives the police more confiscatory powers when it comes to firearms and designates $400 million dollars for establishment of the “Office of Safe Schools” in the Florida Department of Education, and fund sheriff’s department efforts to beef up school security.

There’s still no official word on what Florida Governor Rick Scott will do regarding the bill. An outspoken opponent to arming the state’s teachers, he told the Tallahassee Democrat  he would “take time to read the bill,” then talk with family members of those killed before making a decision.

“I’ve been clear,” he said, “I don’t think we should be arming teachers.” Instead, Scott proposes more school resource officers- one per 1,000 students- under the control of the local sheriff.

The measure limits teachers who would be eligible for carrying arms to “members of the U.S. Reserves or National Guard, in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program, or is a current or former law enforcement officer.” Staff members could volunteer, but classroom teachers who “exclusively perform instruction” would be blocked.

Debate on the bill was bitter, with both sides of the issue arguing against the measure. In the final vote, however, it seemed impossible for either side to walk away from nearly a half-billion dollars for school security and mental health programs.

Here’s the dollar figures:

— $400 million for mental health and school safety programs
— $ 98 million for beefing up physical security in schools
— $ 87 million for a Safe Schools program
— $ 69 million for mental health assistance
— $ 25 million to replace the classroom building where the shooting occurred
— $ 18.3 for a mobile crisis team
— $ 500,000 for mental health first aid training

At this point, Governor Scott has 10 days to sign or veto the measure. If he elects to do nothing it would become law without his signature.

We’ll keep you posted.

—Jim Shepherd