TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - From banning assault weapons to arming Florida teachers with guns, Tuesday was a busy day at the state capital as lawmakers took on controversial topics the week marking one year after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
Lawmakers from Central Florida, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Rep. Anna Eskmani, along with other Democrats introduced Tuesday what they call a comprehensive gun legislation package.
"It's absolutely intentional. We know we are at the one year mark of the tragedy in Parkland. Pulse Nightclub is in District 47, so we are very familiar with the impact of gun violence and we have to honor those who are no longer with us with action," Eskamani said.
The legislative package they introduced includes several bills previously filed that would ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, require universal criminal background checks on all purchases and closing the gaps to Florida's "Red Flag Law."
"There are so many things that we are going to be doing to fully address what has become the epidemic for our state," Guillermo Smith said.
Across the capital Tuesday, lawmakers also took up Senate Bill 7030. A bill compiled with recommendations from the Marjory Stoneman Public Safety Commission, which was a group of leaders appointed by former Republican Gov. Rick Scott after the shooting in Parkland.
Arming teachers was part of the conversation Monday night in Orlando when Guillermo Smith, Eskmani and Brevard County Republican Rep. Thad Altman took part in News 6's town hall on gun-related issues, along with law enforcement, mental health and education experts.
"I don’t know if we'll ever agree 100 percent on these approaches, but what was shown in the Legislature is an ability to work together, to compromise and to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people," Altman said after the town hall.
Part of the bill, would expand the current school guardian program to allow trained teachers to carry guns, if the school district chooses. Those teachers must volunteer to be part of the program and undergo training according to the recommendations. That was the contentious issue up for debate at Tuesday afternoon's meeting.
"Guns at my school will make me feel unsafe rather than safe," said an elementary school student named Astor. "We have police officers at schools to protect us. We don't need teachers to have guns."
However, after about an hour and half meeting, the Senate Committee on Education passed SB7030, clearing the way to go to the next committee.
"This legislation implements the Commission’s recommendations in the areas of school safety and security with key improvements to school security measures, enhancements to student safety, and by providing greater flexibility for school districts to transfer funds toward school safety expenditures," said Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. who chairs the commission. "This legislation demonstrates that the memory of those we lost in Parkland will never be forgotten, and we will continue to take the steps necessary to keep our children safe in school.”
However, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo quickly responded Tuesday.
"This bill is dangerous and a threat to our students and teachers," Rizzo said. "As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting, it is shameful that instead of honoring the victims, Republicans are trying to put more guns in our schools."
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