Florida House debates gun restrictions bill

By Angie Angers, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 06, 2018, 6:26 PM EST

Less than three weeks after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, the Florida House took up debate on a bill to create new weapon restrictions while allowing some school staff to carry guns. 

  • Some of the measures include program to arm school staff
  • Another item being considered is to increase age in sale of assault-style weapons
  • What's in the bill? READ THE DETAILS

The Florida Senate narrowly passed the bill Monday, with Democrats splitting between those who want a full ban on rifles like the AR-15, and those who just want to get something passed.

"Do I think this bill goes far enough? No. No, I don't." said Democratic Sen. Lauren Book, who tearfully described visiting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after 17 people were fatally shot on Valentine's Day.

She also would have liked a ban on assault-style rifles, like many of the students who traveled to the state Capitol to ask lawmakers to go even further to stop future mass shootings. But Book said she couldn't let the 60-day legislative session end Friday without doing something.

In the House, dozens of amendments were added to the bill, including one to strip out a plan to let some teachers and school employees train to carry guns on campus. That amendment failed on a 42-71 vote.

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando noted that some polls showed little public support for arming teachers, yet support for an assault weapons ban.

"So what do we have before us today? A proposal that arms teachers and does not ban military-style assault weapons," Smith said. `"This is why people are so fed up with politics."

Meanwhile, Republican State Rep. Elizabeth Porter criticized colleagues who say lawmakers should listen to the Stoneman Douglas students who lobbied in Tallahassee for more gun control legislation.

"We've been told that we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask. Are there any children on this floor? Are there any children making laws? Do we allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says no homework?" Porter said. "No. The adults make the laws."

Earlier Monday, families of the 17 Florida high school massacre victims called on the state's Legislature to pass a bill they believe will improve school security.

Reading a statement outside Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Ryan Petty implored legislators to pass Gov. Rick Scott's proposal to add armed security guards, keep guns away from the mentally ill and improve mental health programs for at-risk teens. Scott also opposes arming teachers.

"We must be the last families to lose loved ones in a mass shooting at a school. This time must be different and we demand action," said Petty, reading from the group statement.

Petty's 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, was killed in the Feb. 14 shooting, along with 13 schoolmates and three staff members.

Meanwhile, the Florida Sheriffs Association is warning lawmakers that the bill does not set aside enough money to make sure every school has its own resource officers.

The bill sets aside $162 million for school resource officers. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri pointed out that it costs on average about $100,000 to hire and equip a law enforcement officer. Florida has baout 3,800 schools.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.