Gov. Rick Scott and Florida lawmakers proposed major changes Friday to gun laws, school safety improvements and more money for mental health in response to the killings of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
In a major departure from Scott’s plan, Republican legislative leaders said they will impose a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases in the state.
It’s the first waiting period in more than three decades, and it’s likely to provoke opposition from the state’s sizable and vocal population of gun owners.
Another difference is that the Legislature wants a program to train and arm teachers and administrators on school grounds, but Scott opposes that.
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The governor and his fellow Republicans in the Senate and House will not seek bans of any type of long weapons, such as the AR-15-like assault rifle used in the Parkland attack on Feb. 14.
“I know there are some who are advocating a mass taking of Second Amendment rights for all Americans. That is not the answer,” Scott said.
Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, suggested that an assault weapons ban would violate the Constitution.
“I think there’s a delicate balance. Even in difficult times, we have to follow the Constitution. We have to show fidelity to the Constitution,” Negron said during a second news conference with nearly a dozen Republican lawmakers.
The Legislature’s proposals fall short of where the majority of Floridians are, according to an internal GOP poll conducted for Senate Republicans.
“There is support for going farther,” acknowledged Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, the incoming Senate leader. But, he said, the proposal attempts to recognize there have been “gaps in the way we regulate and control gun ownership” but “I’m comfortable with where we are.”
He said the challenge with such bans is how to define what is acceptable and what is not and that adds layers of risk that they may infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
He added, “I’m not under any illusion that the issue [assault weapons ban] will not come up.”
Scott is asking the Legislature to spend $500 million, most of it for safety improvements, including $50 million for enhanced mental health counseling.
Scott’s plan calls for school resource officers in every Florida public and charter school, including one for every 1,000 students; a Department of Children and Families case manager assigned to all 67 sheriffs; active shooter drills in every school, and state-approved school safety plans.
“The goal of this plan of action is to make massive changes to protecting our schools,” Scott said at a packed news conference at the Capitol in Tallahassee.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, gave assurances that even under a very tight timetable, the proposals will be debated at length during committee meetings and the public will be heard.
The changes must be approved in the next two weeks of the annual legislative session that’s scheduled to end on March 9.
“An open dialogue is critical,” Scott said. “But I will not accept the old tired political notion that we don’t have enough time to get anything done.”