Scott, Legislators Pitch Changes In School Safety, Gun Laws

February 24, 2018

Pledging “change is coming” and “never again,” Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders on Friday released proposals encompassing gun laws, safer schools and mental health, with the goal of preventing future tragedies like last week’s mass shooting at a Broward County high school that left 14 students and three faculty members dead.

The plans came nine days after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz went on a shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the school deaths.

The sweeping plans — which total up to $500 million — swiftly drew the ire of Democrats, who said the measures don’t go far enough, and National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer, who blasted the proposals as punishing gun owners for the crimes of a madman.

The Republican leaders released their plans two days after meeting with Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who traveled to the Capitol to plead for stricter gun laws to stop murderers like Cruz, who a year ago legally purchased — with no waiting period — the assault-style weapon he used to mow down students and faculty at the school he once attended.

Scott said he has been speaking with students and parents from the school and attending funerals since the shooting.

“My message to them has been very simple. You are not alone. Change is coming, and it will come fast,” Scott told reporters at an 11 a.m. press conference, an hour before House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron held a separate media event to announce their plans.

Details of Cruz’s troubled history, frequent interactions with law enforcement and the FBI’s failure to investigate at least one alert that the teenager posed a threat to schools helped spark Scott and Republican legislative leaders to craft multi-faceted proposals encompassing school safety measures, new gun restrictions and mental health services.

The governor and the legislative leaders parted ways on two significant elements: a controversial program to allow trained teachers and administrators to bring guns to school and a three-day waiting period on the purchase of long guns — as endorsed by the House and Senate and already required for handguns, but excluded from Scott’s plan.

Scott and legislative leaders agreed on a plan to require people to be at least 21 years old to purchase any gun, a requirement already in place for handguns but not long guns such as rifles and shotguns. The powerful NRA opposes such a change.

And Scott and lawmakers would ban “bump stocks,” an idea also opposed by the NRA. Bump stocks are used to speed up the rate of firing of semiautomatic weapons.

Hammer, the NRA’s Florida lobbyist who is widely considered one of the most powerful lobbyists in the Capitol, had harsh words for the governor and lawmakers, accusing them of floating “political eyewash” that “punishes” gun owners.

“This is a betrayal of law-abiding gun owners who did absolutely nothing. All of the laws in place to identify and stop this kind of activity failed. So since they can’t actually punish those failures, they’re going to punish law-abiding gun owners. And of course, we always obey the law, so they don’t have to worry about us before or after they pass this gratuitous gun control,” Hammer said Friday.

Among the disclosures during the past week has been that Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ school-resource officer, Scot Peterson, did not enter the building to try to stop the shooting. Peterson resigned Thursday after being suspended by Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.

Hammer said the NRA endorses part of the legislative proposal, which involves the concept of a “school marshal” program. Under the program, teachers or other school employees who’ve undergone extensive training and been deputized by local sheriffs could bring guns to school. Current Florida law allows only law enforcement officials to carry weapons on school property. The marshal proposal is similar to a program created by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

If passed, Florida would be the first state to launch such a program, according to Corcoran, who said qualified people would be both teachers hired by school systems and law-enforcement officers working under sheriffs.

But Scott balked at the idea of armed teachers, saying “my focus is on bringing in law enforcement.”

His plan would require at least one school resource officer — a police officer or sheriff’s deputy — in each of the state’s 4,000 public schools, including charter schools. Scott, who wants to spend $500 million on his overall package, is recommending a ratio of one resource officer for every 1,000 students.

The governor and Republican leaders are also divided about another element likely to face pushback from the NRA. Scott is proposing a “violent threat restraining order” that would allow family members or law enforcement officials to get court orders to take guns away from people who have shown evidence of being a danger to themselves or others.

“No one with mental issues should have access to a gun. It’s common sense,” Scott said.

But House Rules & Policy Chairman Jose Oliva and his colleagues rejected such a plan.

“We took a long, hard look at this,” said Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican slated to take over as House speaker this fall. “Whenever you are going to deprive someone of something, you have to do it under a condition that provides clear evidence that that is necessary. In the way that we’ve seen it, giving people outside of either the authority or the understanding of what is clear and present danger — a family member, a neighbor, or someone like that — to directly make that appeal, we think goes beyond.”

The Florida Education Association teachers’ union offered support for Scott’s proposal, while Democrats argued the measure fails to go far enough by not including a ban on “assault” rifles like the AR-15 used by the Parkland shooter.

FEA President Joanne McCall said Scott’s outline is “very close” to a recommendation from the union, while any discussion about “weapons designed for war” is something that can be addressed after “sensible gun policy” is enacted.

Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon noted that Democrats had already filed bills that would raise the age to purchase long guns and create the gun restraining order.

“We can beef up mental health screenings, raise the age for gun purchases, and dream up other stopgap measures, but the threat to our children and our citizens will continue until we finally take bold action to ban assault weapons designed for the battlefield from easy access in our communities. Without that, the voices of the students, and the will of the people, continue to be ignored,” Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, said in a statement.

But Scott rejected “a mass takeaway of Second Amendment rights.”

“That is not the answer. Keeping guns away from dangerous people, and people with mental illness, is what we need to do,” he said.

At Corcoran’s urging, Republican legislative leaders are also pushing creation of a commission, to be headed by the parent of one of slain students, and a special counsel to investigate how different agencies handled Cruz and identify any potential shortcomings in the law-enforcement and school systems.

Lawmakers are racing against the clock to pass a wide-ranging measure before the legislative session ends on March 9.

“Our job is to lead. Government has failed on multiple levels. It can never happen again. Our hope is that we will put together, jointly with the Senate, a proposal that will ensure it never happens again and we don’t fail our school students again,” Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, told reporters.

by Dara Kam and Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

Pictured: Gov. Rick Scott discusses school safety on Friday. Photo for, click to enlarge.


17 Responses to “Scott, Legislators Pitch Changes In School Safety, Gun Laws”

  1. Becky on February 25th, 2018 7:36 pm

    It is time for Gov. Scott to do effective changes to protect our schools.

  2. mike on February 25th, 2018 5:44 pm

    no new laws needed, just a change in how reports of a potential school shooter are handled, and some kinda (ahem) intestinal fortitude tests for law officers. :)

  3. EMD on February 25th, 2018 10:08 am

    I want to feel free from the government the left wants to impose on everyone. And, no matter what anyone believes about J. Edgar Hoover, I have, through the years watched everything he wrote(and more) in his book, “Masters of Deceit” happen in this country. I have also seen most unaware of the devices used by The Communist Party. I do so much hope that we will begin educating ourselves and our children in this area. Communism might sound good to some, but it never works, due to human nature. The only ones that prosper in that system are the ones who lord it over the majority. I hope that people wake up before it is too late. One of the first things they do is take away firearms from the citizens, so they cannot resist their final “solution.” This country already no longer resembles the country in which I grew up. We were not perfect then, but it was better than now. I also hate so much to see those who have won their freedom, trying to again cause division. I hope people will educate themselves. Every area of our society has been infiltrated. Many have already been brainwashed and re-programmed. Remember, “against all enemies, foreign AND domestic.”

  4. concernednanny on February 25th, 2018 7:29 am

    The reason you never hear about mass shootings at jails or courthouses is simply because there are armed people there. No one trys to “shoot up” a place that is known to have people there that will shoot back. Arm the teachers that want to be armed and trained. People will not be so quick to attack the most vulnerable in our society if it is known that they have protection and no one knows who it is.

  5. Rocky on February 24th, 2018 10:30 pm

    For the sake of our argument folks, there is no accurate count of so called ‘Assault Rifles’. Yes, I know they are NOT ‘assault rifles’, but those trying to figure this all out don’t, so they call them that for the sake of not confusing the idiots we’ve all elected to office. The ATF Form 4473 does not spell out ‘Assault Rifle’, the data entered includes – manufacturer, model number, long-gun or handgun, serial number, and caliber. Furthermore, the ATF is forbidden by law to enter all of this data into a database, it is kept in paper format, so it is impossible for them to search the number of so called ‘assault rifles’ in the US. And, thus, “Best Estimates” are somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 – 15 million of these weapons in the US today.

    Since 2012, these so called ‘assault rifles’, have been used in 11 mass shootings. Using low end of the estimate that means 0.00011% of those 10 million weapons were used in mass shootings. If you go high end, that jumps to a staggering 0.000073%, and liberals are doing their absolute best to deny us the right to own one.

    I found one website that professed a record of every mass killing the infamous AR 15 ‘assault rifle’ had been used in, in the last 35 years, and guess what… The 11 shootings jumped to a whopping 13.

    Total death toll in all 13 shootings… 220 people, in 35 years.

    More TEENAGERS died texting while driving in THE LAST THREE WEEKS, than these guns have killed in mass shootings in 35 years. That’s right folks, 11 teenagers die texting and driving EVERY SINGLE DAY in the US, and no one is talking about banning cell phones.

    You might ask your elected officals why!

  6. Jimmy on February 24th, 2018 8:42 pm

    Time to vote out Rick Scott! Sounds like he prefers a police state to a constitutional republic. We have got to rid this country of freedom-hating career politicians!

  7. A. Alex on February 24th, 2018 8:07 pm

    Why not 31,SINGLE, NO TRAFFIC OR CRIMINAL ACTIVITY, must be a former BoyScout Eagle, own your own house(not living with a parent),not living on a government check( (this includes SSI,SS, military retirement.
    And must show a mininum $1,000,000. Insurance policy before obtaining the weapon. I was living on my own at 19 and age is not the issue here.

  8. Bob C. on February 24th, 2018 4:57 pm

    Dear Readers and Comment Makers,
    The Very LAST thing a “shooter” expects is to be confronted by anyone who is Armed and Returns Fire with the sole intent to STOP the assault.

    “A R” as in AR-15 does Not = Assault Rifle
    “A R” as in AR-15 does = Armalite (the name of the company making them)

  9. Alan on February 24th, 2018 4:36 pm

    There is no doubt that before this is over, the minimum age to purchase and possess a gun of any type in Florida, and probably the country, will be 21 year old. I don’t have an issue with this, provided we make 21 years old equitable with adulthood in all areas.

    1. 21 to vote in any Federal, State, or Local election.

    2. 21 to enter the military. If you can not posses a gun in society you should not be asked to posses one on behalf of the same government to kill on their behalf.

    3. 21 to get married. If you are not mature enough to own a gun, you are not mature enough to enter into the contract of marriage.

    4. 21 to get an unrestricted drivers license. 16 years old to get a restricted license requiring an adult in the car with an unrestricted license to drive. Daylight hours only.
    18 years old they can drive alone during daylight hours and with an adult during other than daylight hours. Vehicles have killed more people than guns every will, probably including during wars.

    5. 21 to enter into any legally binding contract.

    Why do some people think more laws will make this go away when the same government could not use the tools they already have to keep this last shooting from happening. Is incompetence all of sudden going to end?

    These new laws will do nothing to solve gun violence.

    What they will do is take rights guaranteed by the 2nd amendment away from law abiding citizens and raise taxes to pay for it, only to let us down the next time it happens.

  10. Rocky on February 24th, 2018 1:52 pm

    Let’s see…

    - Cruz had been kicked out of 4-5 schools for violent/disruptive behavior.

    - The school has a report no criminal activity policy in place, so the superintendent and school are a party to this crime.

    - The school already had a school resource officer, he and several other Broward County deputies were found hiding behind their cars, guns drawn, in the parking lot when City Police arrived.

    - The Sheriff’s department has reported 39 calls to the Cruz household, 2 calls on Cruz himself, and no arrests. It’s also been reported they received information 2 years ago Cruz may be planning a school shooting, and there is no record of that tip being received, let alone investigated.

    - The FBI in Mississippi investigated Cruz’s comments online about shooting up the school, forwarded that to Headquarters in DC where the ball was dropped and it never went to the Miami Field Office.

    - Cruz was seeing a psychiatrist who did nothing more than prescribe psychotropic drugs which frequently have side effects that lead to such violence.

    - The Family looking after Cruz demanded he buy a gun safe, lock up his guns, and bring them the key, realizing he was displaying dangerous behavior.

    And, for some asinine reason my rights of gun ownership are being threatened.

    Let’s take everybody’s car away, drunk drivers and teenagers texting kill far more people than AR 15s, which are NOT assault weapons do.

  11. Handyman on February 24th, 2018 11:54 am

    A school resource in every school….do you have any idea how much that’s going to cost? The state won’t be paying for it, Escambia County taxpayers will. The only way is to raise taxes significantly.

    Where would all of these state mandated SRO’s come from and how do the “we demand it but don’t expect us to pay for it” type taxpayers expect the county the get the money?

    Prepare your wallets.

  12. SF on February 24th, 2018 11:43 am

    @ Lou. Some of you continue to refer to these weapons as assault rifles. Please learn a little more about the AR-15. It is a semi-automatic rifle! There are plenty of weapons that are capable of the same things. Also, I would like for you to explain to me why law abiding citizens shouldn’t be allowed the same type of weapons that criminals have. Stop drinking the liberal cool aid and use your common sense. All the proposals so far are simply more laws that only the LAW ABIDING will follow!

  13. Stumpknocker on February 24th, 2018 11:31 am

    Just thoughts of teachers with guns, gun retention, making sure no one knows they have it until it’s needed, if a student learned who was caring might make it tempting to take away from the teacher, no need to bring one to school there’s already one there . Another is if it’s a known student and this particular teacher or staff member knows or even has taught this student, could this teacher take the shot and take this students life to save others,then be accurate considering the back drop of students running in the back ground and the concearn of missing. Very difficult situation to be in, just thinking.

  14. SF on February 24th, 2018 7:14 am

    @Big bill. I agree. Maybe when they are willing to admit the problem they can fix it. Already too many laws! But evil doesn’t follow laws. Seems like this particular tragedy could have been avoided. Different branches of law enforcement dropped the ball and I don’t see where more laws make a difference. Criminals don’t follow the laws we have now.

  15. Don Neese on February 24th, 2018 6:56 am

    School teachers with handguns? Five trained police officers walking around with long guns on campus might be a deterent. And the key word is might. But a teacher with a 32 hidden in her purse?

  16. Lou on February 24th, 2018 5:53 am

    Ban the assault rifles, raise the age to 21, put metal detectors at school entrance and an armed deputy. We will never be able to completely cover all the angles but this would be a great start to doing something to protect our schools, teachers and children.

  17. bigbill1961 on February 24th, 2018 2:56 am

    All the laws in the world will not stop someone that has no intention of obeying them.

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