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Florida Gun Legislation Heads To Governor After State House Approves Bill

Mar 7, 2018
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After two full days of debate, members of Florida's House this evening voted 67-50 to approve a package of measures aimed at preventing another school shooting like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. It now goes to the governor. The bill bans bump stocks, imposes a three-day waiting period and raises to 21 the age required for all gun purchases. It also allows certain school employees, including some teachers, to carry guns at school.

Joining us now from Tallahassee is NPR's Greg Allen. Hi, Greg.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So lots in this bill, including, I gather, $400 million to improve school security - unpack for us what exactly is in it.

ALLEN: Yes. It's - I think you can fairly say it's a comprehensive bill. There's a lot in it. The money will help hire more school resource officers. They'd like to have at least one officer at every school in Florida and as many as one per every thousand students. So that's a lot more law enforcement people at schools. They'll have whole mental health counselors. They want to have teams that are available to counsel and to assess students to avoid the kind of situation we have with people with mental problems that are not seen to and not helped.

Also, there's a lot of money to harden schools, to add things like metal detectors, bulletproof glass, metal doors - that kind of thing. There's - and then it goes on. There's a commission that's going to be set up that's going to be kind of like our version of the 9/11 Commission. It's going to examine all the events that led up to the to the Parkland shooting and the response afterwards.

And then there's money to replace the building there where the shootings occurred and to also build a memorial to the 17 killed. So there's a lot of things there. And the last thing I'll mention is that officers now will have the authority to temporarily seize the guns of people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others, and that could be a big thing that could help avoid this kind of thing in the future.

KELLY: Am I right in guessing the NRA is not terribly happy about this bill that passed tonight?

ALLEN: Right. That's been one of the most significant things about this because this is a state that's been very strong on gun rights. The NRA has a lot of clout in Tallahassee. They fought hard against some of the provisions, and they called on their members to pressure representatives, and a lot of pressure was brought to bear on them. In the end, we had many pro-gun rights Republican members bucking the NRA and voting for the bill saying that, you know, they don't care about the primary. They want to do the right thing.

One of the Democrats today in the debate said that the bill was a gut-punch to the NRA and thought that they could undo more. So we will see as this goes forward. But that said, there is one thing the NRA wanted here, and that was to make schools no longer gun-free zones. And so they did take a step in that direction.

KELLY: What about what is surely the most controversial part of this bill, this measure I mentioned that allows some school employees to carry guns? Do we have detail on how that would work?

ALLEN: Right. It's fairly detailed. And that of course is what we're talking about. Something the NRA has pushed for is to keep not - no longer keep all guns out of schools. The way this would work is that it's a program that'd be set up that would be optional for school districts and for sheriffs. And so you've got some districts like Miami-Dade and Broward County and Hillsborough County over in Tampa saying that they're not going to take part in it already.

So a lot of the big districts don't want to have anything to do with it, but those that do will be able to take school employees who are not exclusively classroom teachers, give them the authority, go through 132 hours of training, get background checks. And if they go through all that and become, like, de facto sheriff's deputies, they can then carry guns in the schools. And they will also include a $500 stipend to help that person buy a gun if they need one.

KELLY: Thank you, Greg.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

KELLY: That's NPR's Greg Allen reporting from Tallahassee, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.