TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — In response to a deadly Florida school shooting last month, the state’s Senate narrowly passed a bill Monday that would create new restrictions on rifle sales and allow some teachers to carry guns in schools.
The 20-18 vote came after three hours of often emotional debate. Support and opposition crossed party lines, and it was clear many of those who voted for the bill weren’t entirely happy with it.
“Do I think this bill goes far enough? No! No, I don’t!” said Democratic Sen. Lauren Book, who tearfully described visiting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after 17 people were fatally shot on Valentine’s Day.
She also would have liked a ban on assault-style rifles, like many of the students who traveled to the state Capitol to ask lawmakers to go even further to stop future mass shootings. But Book said she couldn’t let the legislative session end Friday without doing something.
“My community was rocked. My school children were murdered in their classrooms. I cannot live with a choice to put party politics above an opportunity to get something done that inches us closer to the place I believe we should be as a state,” she said. “This is the first step in saying never again.”
The Republican-controlled Senate rejected Democratic proposals to ban assault rifles and large-capacity magazines, along with a proposal to strip language from the bill to create a program to arm teachers.
If just one more senator voted no instead of yes Monday evening, the bill would have died. Republicans and Democrats alike said there were parts of the bill they didn’t like. Democrats didn’t like the idea of letting teachers carry guns, even if the bill was amended to water down that proposed program. And many pro-gun rights Republicans didn’t like the idea of raising the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21 and to create a waiting period on sales of the weapons.
The bill now goes to the House, which has a similar bill still waiting for consideration by the full chamber. The annual 60-day session is scheduled to end Friday.
The school safety bill will be named after the slain coach.
The Florida Senate voted to name a program that will allow some teachers to carry guns in schools after an assistant high school football coach who was killed in a February school shooting. The Senate amended its school safety bill Monday 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.
The amendment names the program for Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead. He has been hailed as a hero for shielding students during the attack.
The families of the 17 Florida high school massacre victims called on the Legislature to pass a bill they believe would improve security at the state’s schools.
Reading a statement outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Monday, father Ryan Petty implored the legislature to pass Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal that seeks adding armed security guards, keeping guns away from the mentally ill and improving mental health programs for at risk teens.
Petty’s 14-year old-daughter Alaina was killed in the Feb 14 shooting, along with 13 schoolmates and three staff members.
“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.
Laws are being changed in Oregon.
Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has signed into law a bill that bars convicted domestic abusers and people under restraining orders from buying or owning guns and ammunition.