Dear Commons Community,
Yesterday, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law an array of gun limits that included raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extending the waiting period to three days. It was the most aggressive action on gun control taken in the state in decades and the first time Mr. Scott, who had an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, had broken so significantly from the group.
Florida legislators passed the bill, SB 7026, earlier this week, three weeks after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida. Scott had expressed hesitancy over whether he would sign the bill. He initially opposed the measure that would allow staff members with training to carry guns, breaking with President Donald Trump’s position.
SB 7026 contains a number of gun-related reforms, including a three-day wait period on gun sales, raising the age requirement for all firearms sales to 21, some regulation of bump stocks, and allocating $69 million to the state’s Department of Education for mental health programs.
Along with these measures, the bill would allow county sheriff’s offices to establish the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, an initiative that would arm select school staff members. The program’s language specifically excludes most teachers, except in the case of Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps educators and teachers in the military or law enforcement.
Flanked by family members of the Parkland shooting victims during the signing ceremony Friday, Scott affirmed that the “historic legislation” would help insure that “every student in Florida has the right to learn in a safe environment.”
But he again expressed some reservations about arming school staff.
The Florida Education Association, the state’s teachers union, had urged Scott to strike down the bill’s provision that would establish the Feis Guardian program arming school staff, which was named after an assistant football coach at Stoneman Douglas who was killed while shielding students from the shooter.
“The provision that would arm school employees will do more harm than good,” the union’s president wrote in a letter to Scott. “Our teachers and other school employees are ready to fiercely defend our students, but none of them should ever have to choose between shepherding students to safety or confronting an armed assailant where they are sure to draw fire toward the very students they are trying to protect.”
The National Rifle Association advocated against the bill and filed a lawsuit countering SB 7026 on the grounds that it was unconstitutional based on the 2nd Amendment’s “right to bear arms” as well as the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection.”
This is one small step but a step nonetheless.