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FL Senate Removes Plan to Arm Teachers, Keeps Option for Staff

The Florida Senate debates SB 7026, established in response to the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Trimmel Gomes)
The Florida Senate debates SB 7026, established in response to the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Trimmel Gomes)
March 6, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As negotiations play out in the final week of the legislative session, the Florida Senate has adopted a last-minute amendment to its school safety bill designed to appease Gov. Rick Scott and other critics - but some Democrats and gun-control advocates remain opposed.

Under the amendment, proposed by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami, classroom teachers would not be armed if a school district decides to participate in the so-called "school marshal" program established in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Standing outside the chamber as debate continued around Senate Bill 7026, Patricia Brigham, co-chair of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, says her group maintains the solution to gun violence is not more guns.

"Our call remains to ban semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines and expand background checks to close the private-seller loophole," she says. "This bill does not address the real issue, which is the need for serious, responsible gun reform."

The amendment was approved on a voice vote. The bill now moves to the House, where leaders hope to approve it in time to reach the governor's desk before the session ends on Friday.

A statewide Quinnipiac University poll conducted last week showed that a majority of Floridians also support a statewide assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines. But, faced with fierce opposition from the gun lobby, Florida legislators rejected those ideas and instead raised the age limits and expanded the waiting period.

Brigham agrees there are some good points in the current bill.

"You know, risk protection, the three-day waiting period," she adds. "Of course, raising the age to 21 to buy a rifle is really just a cosmetic fix because, for example, the Pulse shooting was 29; the Las Vegas shooter was 64."

The proposal developed by conservative Republicans would also inject $400 million into mental-health and school-safety programs, as well as ban the purchase and possession of bump stocks.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL