Florida Legislature sends gun and school safety bill to governor

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By Phil Helsel and Associated Press

Florida's House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to approve a gun and school safety bill that would raise the age to buy all firearms to 21 and impose a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases — and potentially put guns into the hands of some educators.

The House passed SB 7026 — the "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act" — by a vote of 67-50 Wednesday evening. The bill is in response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead, most of them students.

The Senate voted 20-18 on Monday to pass the bill, sending it to the House. It now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature — but he declined to say Wednesday whether he would sign the legislation.

The bill passed by the Florida House also provides new mental health programs for schools and provisions to keep guns away from people who show signs of mental illness or violent behavior.

The measure also prohibits "bump stocks," devices which allow semi-automatic firearms to fire faster, and which police said were used in an Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead.

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It also would create a so-called guardian program that would let some school employees and teachers carry handguns if they go through law enforcement training and if the school district decides to participate in the program.

Related: Suspected Florida school shooter 'restless' in jail, reports say

Scott has repeatedly said he doesn't support arming teachers and had pushed lawmakers to adopt his proposal that called for at least one law enforcement officer in every school and one for every thousand students who attend a school.

"I'm going to take the time and I'm going to read the bill and I'm going to talk to families," Scott told reporters earlier Wednesday.

The bill also prohibits the sale or even possession of "bump stocks," devices that allow semi-automatic firearms to fire faster, which police said were used in an Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead.

Florida's bill would not ban assault-style rifles. Isabella Vanderlaat, a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said that is the ultimate goal. Students who survived the shooting and others have held protests calling for stricter gun control.

"We want change. This is a good start, but obviously this is not what we want to accomplish – we want more," Vanderlaat, 15, said Wednesday night. "In my opinion, the only people who should have an assault, military weapon is the military."

Since the Parkland shooting, retailers Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart have announced that they will no longer sell firearms to people younger than 21 years of age. Dick's Sporting Goods also said it would no longer sell assault-style rifles. Walmart said it stopped selling "modern sporting rifles, including the AR-15" in 2015.

Florida Rep. Patricia Williams (D-Ft. Lauderdale), foreground, pats Rep. Roy Hardemon (D-Miami) on the back after Hardemon said he got rid of his guns during the school safety debate on the House floor at the Florida Capital in Tallahassee, Florida on March 7, 2018.Mark Wallheiser / AP

"Today, the House kept its word to the students and families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School," Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Republican, said in a statement. "When we said 'never again' we meant it."

Meanwhile, the alleged gunman in the Parkland shooting, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, on Wednesday was indicted on 34 counts, including 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree, State Attorney Michael Satz said.

Cruz has confessed to the shooting, in which he used an AR-15 rifle, according to police documents. Federal and state law had required buyers of handguns to be 21 years of age and required a three-day waiting period, but the age for rifles was 18.

Kerry Sanders contributed.