Florida lawmakers continue to debate school safety legislation

By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
March 5, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The Florida Senate began debating its school safety package around 3:30 p.m. on Monday, which still contains a plan to arm teachers and to raise the age of buying any rifle to the age of 21 while requiring a background check.

The measure has the support of many of the parents who lost a child in the Valentine's Day mass shooting, even though it does not ban the weapon that killed them.

Democrats started the day divided on massive school safety legislation. On Saturday, they lost efforts to ban assault rifles and to take out a provision arming teachers. It remains too much of a poison pill.

"The arming teachers plan is too much," said Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon (D - Broward County).

"It puts them, I think, in a perilous place to have guns in the schools, especially when we can get rid of that," added Senator Audrey Gibson (D - Jacksonville).

But, Democrats did not take a caucus position. Lauren Book (D - Broward), who toured the high school the day after the shooting, says there is much to like in the legislation.

"Increasing the age to purchase firearms to 21 is important," Book explained. "I believe that a three-day waiting period is important. I believe that the Baker Act provisions in the bill are important."

Book is joined by several parents who lost a child that day. Andrew Pollack lost his daughter, 18-year-old Meadow. The gun control sought by thousands of have rallied at the capital can wait, he says, until another day.

"I think if we all come together, we can achieve school safety," Pollack said. "That should be their main focus right now, the kids. Then after that, they can do whatever they want with gun control."

The legislation still faces hurdles, because a lot of members want to do away with the three-day waiting period and they don't want the age to go up from 18 to 21 to buy a rifle.

But the first legislation to curb some gun rights in more than two decades could be on Governor Rick Scott's desk by the end of the week.

In an amendment this afternoon, the Senate named the measure after Marjorie Stoneman Douglass coach Aaron Feis. He died holding a door open for students who were saved by his action.

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