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In Florida, Gun Measures Abound in School Shooting’s Wake

Florida Governor Rick Scott rolled out a plan to address school shootings on Friday, amid growing outrage over the Parkland school shooting and inaction by the Republican-led Florida Legislature.

(CN) - Florida Governor Rick Scott rolled out a plan to address school shootings on Friday, amid growing outrage over the Parkland school shooting and inaction by the Republican-led Florida Legislature.

Scott, a Republican who is nearing the end of his second term in office, unveiled a three-part plan he said would address holes in a system that allowed the suspected Parkland shooter to kill 17 students on Feb. 15.

The Scott plan would increase the age to purchase firearms to 21, ban bump stocks and set up a process to prohibit the purchase and possession of firearms by those deemed violent or mentally ill by a court.

He also wants to commit $500 million to outfit schools with metal detectors, steel doors and other security measures; establish a dedicated tip hotline; hire law enforcement officers for every school in the state; and increasing funding for mental health.

Scott called on lawmakers to pass the measures before the end of legislative session on March 9.

“The goal of this plan of action is to make massive changes in protecting our schools, provide significantly more resources for mental health, and do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of those dealing with mental problems or threatening harm to themselves or others,” Scott told reporters in Tallahassee.

“I know there are some who are advocating a mass takeaway of 2nd amendment rights for all Americans. That is not the answer. Keeping guns away from dangerous people and people with mental issues is what we need to do,” the governor said.

The measures are a significant shift for Scott, who previously received an A-plus rating by the National Rifle Association and frequently touted his Second Amendment credentials on the campaign trail. In 2011, he backed a law that prohibited doctors from asking if a patient owned a gun.

The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the organization has derided age limits and bump stock restrictions in the days since the Parkland school shooting. Over the last week, the NRA and President Trump called for arming teachers, but Scott brushed off the idea.

“Let law enforcement keep us safe and let teachers focus on teaching,” he said.

Scott stressed that he wasn't seeking to stigmatize the mentally ill with the firearm prohibitions in his plan.

“I reject that," he said. "I am not asking them to wear a scarlet letter, nor am I unsympathetic to their plight. … But, what I am saying is no one with mental issues should have access to guns.”

Scott, who narrowly won his first term in 2010 on a Tea Party-esque platform of limited government and cutting taxes, addressed the funding issue directly.

“Fortunately, our economy is booming, and we have the resources to protect our schools and our students,” he said. “And, if providing this funding means we won't be able to cut taxes this year, so be it. And, if we have to give up some of the projects we all hold near and dear, so be it.”

Scott’s announcement coincided with the leaders of the Florida House and Senate submitting a similar legislative package, which would also include a three-day waiting period for all firearms. Currently, only handguns require such a waiting period.

Even with the support of these powerful Republicans, any type of gun control could hit snags moving through the Florida legislature, which holds a Republican super-majority wary of gun regulations. After all, this is the state that first passed the “Stand Your Ground” law and more than 2 million of its residents hold concealed carry permits – more than any other state.

After Scott’s announcements, Florida Democrats swiftly criticized him for leaving out a ban on assault weapons.

“If the tragedies at the Pulse nightclub and, now, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, have taught us nothing else, it is that so long as these high powered weapons of war remain available for purchase these killings will continue,” said Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens in a statement.

“No matter the age, the mental health states, the backgrounds or nationalities, this is the one common denominator shared with the majority of gunmen who have committed mass slayings in this country,” he continued. “And they ignore this tie at our children’s peril.”

On Wednesday, with dozens of Stoneman Douglas High School students in attendance, Florida House Republicans quickly voted down a Democrat-led bill to ban assault weapons without any debate.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson also denounced the exclusion of an assault weapons ban.

“Instead of listening to students and parents, Gov. Scott’s plan bows to the NRA’s demands,” he tweeted minutes after Scott’s press conference. “It does not expand criminal background checks or ban assault rifles, such as the AR-15. Raising the age to 21 is the bare minimum. We need to get these assault rifles off our streets.”

Scott is expected to run for U.S. Senate against Nelson in the fall and took a few jabs at the senator at the end of the press conference.

“Bill Nelson is a career politician,” Scott told reporters. “He talks a lot and does nothing.”

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Categories / Government, Politics, Regional

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