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Florida Legislature Passes Sweeping Gun Bill, Sends to Governor

Twenty protesters participate in a Die-In on the fourth-floor rotunda of the Florida State Capitol.  (Lakey Love)
Twenty protesters participate in a Die-In on the fourth-floor rotunda of the Florida State Capitol. (Lakey Love)
March 8, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida state lawmakers have given final passage to a gun-safety package that raises the legal age for buying rifles and imposes a three-day waiting period on all firearms sales, while also allowing the arming of some public-school personnel.

Wednesday's passage of Senate Bill 7026 came after more than eight hours of emotional debate.

While it includes a number of key gun restrictions, Republicans wouldn't pass one of the primary demands of students and activists: a ban on assault-style weapons.

Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter was killed in the Feb. 14 massacre at a high school in Parkland, said more needs to be done.

"My precious daughter Meadow's life was taken, and there's nothing I can do to change that," said Pollack. "But make no mistake – I'm a father, and I'm on a mission. I'm on a mission to ensure that I'm the last dad to ever read a statement of this kind."

The bill now heads to Gov. Rick Scott's desk, who has not said whether he will sign it.

The legislation overcame intense objections to proposals allowing school staff members to carry guns on school grounds, a measure critics see as posing a particular risk to minority students.

Jahody Polk, executive director of the Florida Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, traveled to the Capitol on Tuesday to participate in a "Die-In," to call attention to the dangers of allowing guns in school.

Polk voiced particular concerns for black and brown students.

"That is normal to get phone calls from time to time, saying that, 'My child's very childlike behavior is scary or terrorizing, or criminalizing,'" she explained. "I'd rather [get] a phone call saying, 'Come in. Help,' rather than, 'Come and pick up or identify his young body.'"

President Donald Trump has publicly supported arming teachers who are properly trained as a way of hardening schools against gun violence.

The National Rifle Association opposed most of the provisions in the Florida Senate bill, with the exception of arming teachers in schools.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL