The Slatest

The GOP-Dominated Florida State Legislature Just Passed New Gun Control Restrictions. Is Change Coming at Last?

Flowers, candles and mementos sit outside one of the makeshift memorials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 27, 2018.
Flowers, candles and mementos sit outside one of the makeshift memorials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 27, 2018. RHONA WISE/Getty Images

The Florida legislature passed a raft of new gun control legislation Wednesday in response to the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., marking a significant shift in the political and policy undertones of the gun control debate in a state that has long been used as a gun rights policy petri dish by the National Rifle Association. In a bipartisan vote that had significant opposition from both parties, the Republican-dominated State House voted 67-50 to impose new restrictions on long gun purchases, while also resolving to put more guns in the state school system in the hands of school employees.

The vote comes days after the State Senate narrowly approved the bill that would raise the age requirement from 18 to 21 and impose a three-day waiting period on purchases of long guns; the measure also bans the possession or sale of bump stocks altogether. Along with those restrictions, the bill includes provisions—known as “risk protection orders”—that make it easier for authorities, with a judge’s approval, to temporarily confiscate the weapons of an individual considered to be a risk to themselves or the community.

“The bill instructs state law enforcement to set up a new mobile app that would allow members of the public, including students, to anonymously report dangerous threats, and it funds additional school mental health services and security officers,” the Washington Post reports. “The Florida bill also provides nearly $100 million to improve school security and $67 million to fund a new sheriff program that would allow school districts to voluntarily train and arm employees who do not exclusively teach in the classroom. These new “school marshals” would have to pass 132 hours of law enforcement training, a background check and additional diversity training.”

The bill irked Democrats in the state that felt it didn’t go far enough to limit access to weapons, squandering a moment where significant reform seemed uniquely possible. The measure similarly does not meet the demands made by many of the Parkland students-turned-activists that have called for a more sweeping ban on the type of gun used by Nikolas Cruz to kill 17 people. Many Republicans, backed by a rallying cry from the NRA, saw the new restrictions as an unconstitutional abridgment of law-abiding citizens’ gun rights.

The bill now goes to Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s desk, who has signaled his support for much of the bill, but who has stated on the record that he does not support the idea of putting more guns in schools by arming teachers. The bill, more or less, does just that, with some teachers exempted from being able to carry a weapon, but the Republican governor has not indicated he will veto the bill. “I am going to read the bill, and I am going to talk to parents,” Gov. Scott told reporters in the state capitol Wednesday. “My goal is that this never happens again to a parent in our state.”