The Florida gun control debate has had its ups and downs in the days following a tragedy that thrust the issue into the fold of American political discourse once again, as it appeared Florida Governor Rick Scott was possibly ready to make concessions on the issue. Scott attended numerous funerals and met with survivors of the shooting in its wake, attempting to field public sentiment and consensus on the gun debate, and at first seemed to take an open stance.
“Everything’s on the table,” Scott said. “It’s very important we act with a sense of urgency.”
After dodging the CNN Town Hall attended by Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson as well as Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and National Rifle Association (NRA) representative Dana Loesch, the governor seemed to pivot the issue to school security over gun control. This shift came on the heels of the failure of an assault weapons ban in the Florida legislature.
But now a new bill has been working its way through the Florida Legislature. After passing through final committee hearings Tuesday, two bills headed to the Florida House and Senate respectively. These bills encompass a wide range of reform: they provide millions of dollars in funding for mental health programs and school safety, attribute the current restrictions for purchasing a handgun (a 21-year-old age requirement and a three-day waiting period) to all firearms and establish the Florida Sheriff’s Marshal Program, which would allow teachers, after receiving at least 132 hours of training and examination, to carry firearms on campus.
“It’s very important that we act with a sense of urgency.”
Scott’s personal proposal focuses on funding for mental health and security as well as raising the age limit to 21 years. It would permit the forced removal of a mentally unstable person’s guns without the need to commit (with or without the Baker Act) and drop the 3-day waiting period and Marshal Program from the House and Senate versions altogether.
Specifically in regards to the Marshal Program, Governor Scott has been publicly against arming teachers since President Trump made the proposal mid-February.
“I don’t believe we should be arming our teachers,” Scott said. “We should be focused on arming law enforcement…my focus is arm law enforcement, let teachers teach.”
The proposals have not escaped controversy and criticism, however, with some arguing the legislation simply does not do enough.
“The governor’s plan doesn’t do one thing to ensure comprehensive criminal background checks or ban assault rifles like the AR-15,” Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said. “…By recommending raising the age to 21, he is doing the bare minimum.”
On the other hand, proponents of the Second Amendment are decrying the proposals as a challenge to constitutional rights.
Proponents of the Second Amendment are decrying the proposals as a challenge to constitutional rights.
“I’m disappointed,” NRA representative Marion Hammer said. “Taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens due to the criminal acts of a deranged person is not a solution.”
While Scott has held an A+ rating with the NRA for almost the entirety of his political tenure, he has pushed back against their agenda and it is unclear how this will affect his standing with the group or his potential upcoming senatorial race. Regardless, Scott stands by his proposal while also reiterating his beliefs on the gun control issue.
“I’m an NRA member. I believe in the Second Amendment,” Scott said. “…But I’m a dad. I’m a granddad and I’m a governor. I want my state to be safe.”
Photo courtesy of The New York Times