Florida’s Governor Signs Compromise School Safety Bill

The bill will raise the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21 and creates a waiting period on sales of the weapons.
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Flanked by family members of students who were killed during a mass shooting just over three weeks ago, Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed a $400 million school safety bill in response to the tragedy that killed 17 people at a high school.

He said the bill, which was written since the shooting, balances “our individual rights with need for public safety.”

“It’s an example to the entire country that government can and has, moved fast.”

The bill isn’t what many of the shooting’s survivors, or the school’s students, wanted — they said it doesn’t go far enough. It also marks Scott’s break with the National Rifle Association, and the group’s powerful lobbyist called the bill “a display of bullying and coercion” that would violate Second Amendment rights and punish law-abiding citizens.

It raises the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21 and creates a waiting period on sales of the weapons. It also creates a so-called “guardian” program that enables teachers and other school employees in participating districts to carry handguns if they complete law enforcement training.

Scott said he is still “not persuaded” about the guardian program.

“I’m glad however, the plan in this bill is not mandatory,” he said, adding that the program will be up to local officials to implement. “If counties don’t want to do this, they can simply say no.”

He said he’s signing the legislation because it makes schools safer.

He singled out two fathers whose children were killed, saying that they walked the halls of the Legislature since the shooting to enact change.

“I know the debate on all these issues will continue. And that’s healthy in our democracy,” he said. “This is a time for all of us to come together, roll up our sleeves and get it done.”

Student activists from the school where the shooting took place followed the bill’s track closely and called it “a baby step.”

“Obviously, this is what we’ve been fighting for. It’s nowhere near the long-term solution,” said Chris Grady, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and one of the organizers of the March for Life later this month in Washington, D.C. “It’s a baby step, but a huge step at the same time.

Florida hasn’t passed any legislation like this in God knows how long. It’s nowhere near what we want, but it’s progress and uplifting to see.”

Scott told the students: “You helped change our state. You made a difference. You should be proud.”

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