By Daniel Uria – UPI
Florida’s Senate passed a school safety bill Monday placing new restrictions on rifle sales and including a program that will allow some school faculty to carry fire arms.
The bill crafted in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, during which former student Nikolaus Cruz killed 17 students and faculty members, passed by a vote of 20 to 18.
“This bill will make a difference now,” said Republican Sen. Bill Galvano, who sponsored the bill. “When it becomes law, things will start changing.”
The bill raises the age limit on the purchase of all guns in Florida from 18 to 21, expands the three-day waiting period on handguns to include all rifles and shotguns and bans the purchase and possession of bump stocks.
It also includes a $400 million package to fund the school system’s ability to address issues of mental health and allows law enforcement to seize and hold firearms from anyone held under the Baker Act for up to 24 hours or longer if they are able to obtain a risk protection order from a court.
One of the bill’s most controversial provisions institutes a so-called “school marshal program.” Under the program school districts may opt to have faculty members undergo psychological screening, a physical fitness test and complete 132 hours of firearm safety and proficiency training to carry a firearm on campus.
The Senate passed an amendment proposed by Republican Rene Garcia stating classroom teachers wouldn’t allowed to be armed under the program.
Under the amendment other school personnel including custodians, principals, librarians and counselors and current or former servicemen or JROTC instructors would be allowed to carry firearms.
“The goal is to make sure that those instructional personnel that are in the classroom cannot participate in the program,” Garcia said. “This is an opt-in program … It’s dependent on the school district and the sheriff to determine if it participates in the program.”
During the session the Senate also agreed to accept an amendment requiring deputized school officials to undergo 12 hours of diversity training in addition to the 132 hours of firearms training to be certified to carry a weapon in the school after members of Florida’s 28-member Florida Conference of Black Legislators expressed concerns black students could be discriminated against by armed school officials.
The bill passed without amendments to ban assault-style rifles or large-capacity magazines which were supported by students, parents and faculty members affected by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting.
“This is not the legislation the Parkland students fought for — this does not go far enough to protect our students from gun violence. What’s missing is real, comprehensive gun reform that will actually keep us safe, including universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and banning assault rifles,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo said.
The bill will now move to the House where it will await approval before being sent to Scott.