For the first time in two decades, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature passed major gun-control measures while also agreeing to arm some teachers and other school staff, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The gun and school-safety bill was approved in response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 students and faculty dead. After more than seven hours of emotional debate that hit the sensitive political subjects of gun control, education and race, the House voted 67-50 in favor of the bill, sending it to Gov. Rick Scott. The vote reflected the fierce divide between both major parties over the bill, which sets up a “guardian” program allowing trained school employees to carry guns in schools. Classroom-only teachers would not be allowed to participate unless they have military or law enforcement experience.
Most Democrats voted against the bill, saying it didn’t go far enough in restricting access to guns and arguing the guardian program will place more weapons in schools, increasing the chance of an accidental shooting. The bill bans bump stocks, increases the minimum age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21 — with exceptions for military and law enforcement officials — and imposes a three-day waiting period for all gun sales. Such measures were unthinkable in the GOP-controlled legislature before the school shooting in Parkland. Gov. Rick Scott refused to say if he would sign the bill but added he’s listening to the victims’ families. The bill also creates a “risk protection order,” allowing police to confiscate guns of people who are involuntarily committed or who pose a violent threat to themselves or others. Gun owners whose firearms are taken away under the order can petition to get them back after 30 days. It puts nearly $400 million toward mental health counseling, hiring more school resource officers, adding metal detectors and bullet-resistant windows in schools and increasing child welfare investigators.