It looks like angry high school students have succeeded where adults have failed, in getting the Florida state legislature to pass at least some gun control laws.
Florida lawmakers bucked the National Rifle Association on Wednesday to pass new firearms regulations and create a program for arming some school employees in a rare act of Republican compromise on the divisive issue of gun violence.
The response to the slayings at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, signaled a major shift for a state known as a legal laboratory for gun rights activists. It could become a blueprint for other states looking at new measures to address mass shootings.
A bipartisan vote of 67-50 in the state House ended an emotional three-week process, in which the state’s legislative leadership toured the bloodstained hallways at the high school, and thousands of students marched on the state capital in Tallahassee to demand change.
After weeks of debate, lawmakers approved a bill that would impose a three-day waiting period for most purchases of long guns and raise the minimum age for purchasing those weapons to 21. The legislation also includes millions of dollars to improve school security and train and arm school employees.
Gov. Rick Scott, R, who supports most but not all of the provisions in the Florida bill and is exploring a U.S. Senate bid, reiterated his opposition to arming teachers Wednesday, but stopped short of threatening a veto.
In addition to the waiting period and an increase in the minimum age, the bill also would ban the possession or sale of bump stocks, which can make guns shoot with the speed of an automatic weapons.
State law enforcement would get new powers to temporarily remove weapons from people deemed to be a risk, and there would be a new judicial process to remove guns and ammunition from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
These so-called “risk protection orders” have become a top-tier priority for gun control lobbyists, and lawmakers in 30 states have introduced or plan bills to give judges greater powers to remove guns. Five states, including California, Indiana and Connecticut, currently have the laws in place.
In the days leading up to the vote, the NRA’s Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer issued an “emergency alert” to members asking them to contact Republicans and demand they vote no. “Neither the 3-day waiting period on all rifles and shotguns, raising the age from 18 to 21 to buy any firearm, or the bump stock ban will have any effect on crime,” she wrote.
These moves would seem to be so commonsensical and minimal that one wonders why they should be celebrated. But one must remember that Florida is an extreme gun-crazy state, the place where the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law was first initiated. The chief NRA lobbyist in that state Marion Hammer (a former NRA president) is legendary for the power she wields over legislators, so much so that she simply calls them up and dictates to them what legislation they should pass and what they should do and say.
Getting even this done is significant, so kudos to the students.