Florida Senate passes bill restricting gun sales

By Brendan Farrington Associated Press 

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate on Monday passed a school safety bill that would place new restrictions on rifle sales, allow some teachers to carry guns in schools, and create more school mental health programs.

The Senate voted, 20 to 18, in favor of bill that was crafted in a response to the Feb. 14 massacre at a Parkland high school that left 17 people dead.


Few, if any, senators were completely happy with the legislation. Many Republicans don’t like the idea of raising the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21 or creating a three-day waiting period to purchase the weapons.

Many Democrats think the bill didn’t go far enough because it doesn’t include a ban on military-style rifles or large-capacity magazines.

Before the vote, the Senate amended the bill to put limits on which teachers could participate in a proposed program to carry guns in schools.

Florida’s House has not yet taken up its version of the bill.

The Senate bill has significant differences from the measure proposed by Republican Governor Rick Scott.


Scott wants to put more sheriff’s deputies in schools. Scott’s plan also goes significantly further in preventing people who show signs of violent behavior or mental illnesses to obtain guns

However, Scott opposes a provision of the Senate bill that would permit schools to voluntarily allow teachers to carry concealed weapons after they complete a training program.

Earlier Monday, some relatives of the 17 Florida victims called on lawmakers to pass Scott’s bill, which they believe will improve school security.

Reading a statement outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Ryan Petty implored legislators to pass Scott’s proposal to add armed security guards, keep guns away from the mentally ill, and improve mental health programs for at-risk teens.

‘‘We must be the last families to lose loved ones in a mass shooting at a school. This time must be different and we demand action,’’ said Petty, reading from the group statement.

Petty’s 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, was killed in the Feb 14 shooting, along with 13 schoolmates and three staff members.


The Senate amended its bill to limit which teachers could volunteer to go through law enforcement training and carry guns in schools.

Any teacher who does nothing but work in a classroom would not be eligible for the program, but teachers who perform other duties, such as serving as a coach, and other school employees could still participate.

Other exceptions would be made for teachers who are current or former law enforcement officers, members of the military or who teach in a Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps program.

The amendment also names the program for slain assistant football coach Aaron Feis, who has been hailed as a hero for shielding students during the school attack.

The 37-year-old graduated from Stoneman Douglas in 1999 and worked mainly with the junior varsity, living in nearby Coral Springs with his wife and daughter. Republican Senator Bill Galvano said he asked for and received the approval of Feis’s family before proposing the amendment.

Although lawmakers are proposing language to prevent people showing signs of violence or mental illness from having guns, Scott’s proposal would let relatives and roommates petition courts to bar potentially dangerous people from having guns; lawmakers’ proposals would not.

Ultimately, lawmakers and not Scott will decide what the legislation looks like before the annual legislative session ends Friday, but Scott could veto a bill and call lawmakers back to a special session to address the issue.

Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, died in the massacre, said the state and federal governments need to be willing to spend money ‘‘to make our schools safe again.’’

The guns are ‘‘an issue for another day,’’ said her husband, Ilan Alhadeff. He said the governor’s proposal should be something everyone agrees with. ‘‘Let’s be one nation. Let’s rally together and protect our kids. Protect our schools.’’

Referring to the shooting, he said in a breaking voice, ‘‘No parent should have to deal with this again. No family should have to deal with this again.’’

Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son, Alex, died in the shooting, said the FBI, the Broward County sheriff’s office and the state Legislature, ‘‘all failed me, all failed my son, they failed all 16 of these families,’’ by not preventing the massacre.

He said he and others met with 25 police chiefs and law enforcement experts from across the country Monday and they unanimously agreed that arming teachers and staff is a bad idea.

Also Monday, state senators voted to exempt students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School from having to take the state’s standardized tests this year.

On the opposite side of the nation, lawmakers in Oregon on Monday became the first to pass and enact a gun control law since the Parkland massacre.

The law prohibits domestic abusers and people under restraining orders from owning firearms.

‘‘Well done Oregon,’’ Democratic Governor Kate Brown exclaimed after signing the law on the steps of the state Capitol as some 200 people, including high school students and victims of domestic abuse, cheered.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.