State Watch

Florida governor bucks NRA on age restrictions in new gun proposal


Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Friday proposed spending half a billion dollars to boost school security and mental health care funding, in hopes of preventing shootings like the massacre at a Parkland, Fla., high school that claimed 17 lives last week.

Notably, the governor’s plan would raise the age to purchase all firearms to 21, which is in direct opposition to the National Rifle Association’s stance on firearm purchases. 

Current Florida law requires those purchasing handguns to be 21, but residents as young as 18 can still purchase rifles like the one used by the Parkland shooter.

{mosads}Scott’s plan would also create a new system to identify and prevent violent or mentally ill people from purchasing or possessing a gun if family members or law enforcement officers show evidence to a court. It would also restrict gun purchases or possession by those who have been involuntarily committed to a hospital.

Scott also called on the state legislature to implement criminal penalties for threats to schools made on social media. And he wants the legislature to ban bump stocks, the modification that allows a semi-automatic weapon to shoot more rapidly.

“This is a time when I believe we must all come together, and even cross party lines,” Scott told reporters at a news conference in Tallahassee. “Of course, we won’t all agree on every issue, but I do believe this is a moment when our state can come together around a commonsense set of actions.”

The proposal seems to be in line with many of the thoughts President Trump has expressed since the shooting. The president has called for stronger backgrounds checks, raising the age to purchase a gun to 21 and a ban on bump stocks. 

Trump has also floated the idea of arming teachers as a way to deter would-be attackers, a plan that Scott has said he does not endorse.

Scott asked the legislature to appropriate $450 million for stronger school safety measures, including an initiative to place at least one law enforcement officer in every public school. The money would also pay for mandatory active shooter training and drills, to be held twice a year for both faculty and students.  

The package of legislation would include a new statewide hotline that would allow students or teachers to report suspect behavior. And it would provide dedicated mental health counselors at every school.

“Some will say it’s too much, and some will say it’s not enough,” Scott said of his proposals. 

Scott also called for $50 million in funding for expanded mental health service teams to treat early or serious mental illness through counseling and crisis management.

Despite the difference on age restrictions, Scott is a close ally of the NRA and on Friday affirmed he would resist calls to roll back gun rights.

“I know there are some who are advocating a mass takeaway of Second Amendment rights for all Americans. That is not the answer,” Scott said. “Keeping guns away from dangerous people and people with mental health issues is what we need to do.”

Gun control groups are not likely to be mollified by the steps Scott outlined Friday. The state legislature earlier this week voted down a package of gun control measures backed by groups like Everytown for Gun Safety, even as students from Parkland watched in the gallery.

“More funding for school security could be good, but what we want is background checks, red flag laws and [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] denial legislation,” said Jamie Ito, a Tallahassee lawyer who works with Moms Demand Action, a group that advocates for stricter gun controls.

Florida has among the most permissive gun laws in the nation, and more than a million state residents have a concealed carry permit.

Even modest reforms to Florida’s gun laws are likely to face stiff headwinds in the Republican-controlled state legislature, where many members are already eyeing runs for higher office. Legislators only have a short window to act on Scott’s proposals: This year’s session is scheduled to end March 9.

Tags Donald Trump Florida Gun control school security

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