TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – All eyes now turn to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has declined to say if he will sign a school safety bill with new restrictions on rifle sales and a program to arm some teachers.
The state House narrowly passed it Wednesday after a narrow Senate vote on Monday.
The 67-50 House vote reflected a mix of Republicans and Democrats in support and opposition. The measure, a response to the shootings at a Parkland high school that left 17 dead, is supported by the victims' families.
Scott has repeatedly said he doesn't support arming teachers and had pushed lawmakers adopt his own proposal, which called for at least one law enforcement officer in every school and one for every thousand students who attend a school.
"I care about protecting my kids, your kids and all of the kids who are watching us here today, and that's what this bill does," said Rep. Shawn Harrison, a Republican from Tampa.
Both sides debated contentiously over amendments and part of the bill as it worked its way through both the Senate and the House.
The bill has several controversial components to it, including:
- The bill raises the age for buying guns from 18 years old to 21 years old.
- It requires a three-day wait for all gun purchases.
- It allows law enforcement to seize firearms from people who make violent threats to others and themselves.
- It allows schools to enroll in a program that would allow the arming of school employees, including administrators, coaches and specialists.
"While I admit this bill is not perfect, it's nowhere near perfect, but it's a step in the right direction," said Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Democrat from Boca Raton.
One of the biggest points of contention in the bill is arming school employees. The most recent version of the bill calls for just administrators, coaches and specialists to be armed, and only if they choose to be armed.
Both the school district and local sheriff have to agree to make it happen as well.
"I know there's a risk bringing guns into schools," said Rep. Ralph Massulo, a Republican from Lecanto. "But really, we're not requiring teachers to be armed. We're giving people that work in our schools that may teach the option to be armed."
"From this product, I don't see how we prevent another mass shooting like Pulse or like Las Vegas or Sandy Hook," said Democrat Rep. Carlos Smith, of Orlando.
In total, the bill provides $400 million for mental health and school safety programs.