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Florida Lawmakers Proposing Major Changes To Gun Laws Following Parkland Shooting

Feb 26, 2018
Originally published on February 26, 2018 6:21 pm
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Florida state lawmakers unveiled a package of gun bills today all aimed at preventing another school shooting like the one that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School two weeks ago. The measures include a three-day waiting period on all firearms purchases, raising the age limit for gun sales to 21 and letting law enforcement temporarily confiscate weapons from anyone deemed a threat to themselves or to others.

Republican leaders in Tallahassee developed the package. And in a nod to gun rights supporters, they also included a measure that would pave the way for some teachers to carry guns in schools. NPR's Greg Allen joins us now from Miami to talk about these measures. Hi, Greg.


CHANG: So missing from this list is something that we've heard the student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School call out for and that is a ban on high-powered semiautomatic rifles. Why isn't that in this package of bills?

ALLEN: Well, you know, Florida is a very strong gun rights state...

CHANG: Right.

ALLEN: ...And has been for many years. And the Republican Party controls the Florida Legislature with a strong majority. The NRA has a lot of clout in Tallahassee. They've already taken action to mobilize their members against these measures being considered. But that said, things have changed since the Parkland shootings. And last week, we saw that lobbying by the students in Tallahassee, that had an impact.

And, you know, maybe the legislators went down to Parkland and visited the school and saw for themselves, you know, the devastation there and the tragedy. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who's conservative, he's a strong gun rights advocate, but he helped develop this package and it has some significant changes for Florida. He was asked though why it didn't include a ban on high-powered semiautomatic rifles.

And polls have shown here in Florida and elsewhere that that's favored by a majority of Americans. Here's what he said to that.


RICHARD CORCORAN: We sat down and we said, how do we craft a policy - no limits on policy, no limits on money. How do we craft a policy that says this will never happen again? If there's polls out there, I can assure you that every single person standing up here, not one of us did one or read one or care about them. What we care about is having it never happen again.

ALLEN: What Corcoran and other Republicans have said is that they believe an assaults weapons ban would be ineffective and also they believe it's unconstitutional.

CHANG: Republican lawmakers are also supporting an idea that President Trump has endorsed and that's arming some teachers in the schools. How exactly would that work in Florida?

ALLEN: Well, what we heard from the House speaker there, Richard Corcoran, is that he thinks it's one of the most important provisions here in the bill - the package of bills. It would be a program that would be voluntary for teachers. They're calling it the school marshal program. It would be a teacher who wanted to do it, had a concealed carry permit and had gone through a minimum of 132 hours of weapons training, similar to what officers go through.


ALLEN: So it's - but it's an idea that's been opposed by many people here in Florida. Many of the student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have opposed it. Democratic lawmakers have opposed it. Also Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott has opposed it. Here's what the Senate minority leader in Tallahassee, Democrat Oscar Braynon, said today about it.


OSCAR BRAYNON: Whether you say I'm going to take a police officer and turn them into a teacher or take a teacher and turn them into a police officer or you say I'm going to train them, I think you are still missing the fundamental point is that putting more weapons into our school does not make anyone safer.

CHANG: Republican members of the Florida House are calling on the governor right now to suspend the Broward County sheriff over his office's investigation of the school shooter. Can you just catch us up a little bit here? What are some of the things that the sheriff's department failed to do in the case of Nikolas Cruz?

ALLEN: Well, we saw last week a list of 23 interactions that the sheriff's office in Broward County had with Cruz and his family. And of those, only two Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said were being investigated. There were two, in 2016 and again in 2017, in which a caller had identified Cruz as a potential school shooter. So they're doing an investigation to see if there was violations there because those calls were never followed up on.

So it's largely because of those that we're hearing these calls for his suspension. So far, the governor's not going down that route. He says he's going to have an investigation and he'll wait for the results on that.

CHANG: All right. That's NPR's Greg Allen. Thank you.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.