On Wednesday, March 7, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) signed a new bill into law tightening gun restrictions and increasing school safety measures in the state of Florida following the Parkland school shooting on February 14 that left 14 students and 3 faculty members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School dead. While these restrictions have received criticism from the likes of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and conservative lawmakers, Governor Scott, who himself was previously graded an A+ legislator by the NRA, signed this bi-partisan bill into law so that students will feel safe at school, and so that parents do not have to worry about the safety of their children at school.
Provisions in the legislation that NRA and gun enthusiasts most strongly oppose include raising the minimum age for legal purchase of a firearm to 21, implementing a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases (most, but not all), and completely making illegal the purchase of bump stocks, an assault weapon accessory that rose to national consciousness following the October 2017 Las Vegas shooting.
Amongst the more controversial of provisions (viewed more favorably by the right) of the bill allows for the arming of certain school employees, namely librarians, guidance counselors, and athletic coaches, according to the New York Times. This provision of the bill in particular was a bi-partisan effort, as many Republican legislators in Florida felt that all school employees, teachers included, should be armed with the notion that this would increase school safety. Governor Scott opposes the idea that teachers should be armed, but was willing to allow for the arming of the aforementioned personnel.
On one hand, the signing of this bill is a major victory for gun control advocates. Shooting after shooting, actions like the ones taken in the new Florida bill are called for by victims, community members, and advocates, However such pleas often fall upon deaf ears because many lawmakers at all levels of government are puppets of the NRA. Because of the response led by students at Stoneman Douglas, however, this shooting feels different, and the results thus far are certainly different. Governor Scott’s endorsement and signature on the bill demonstrates that even lawmakers most lauded by the NRA are willing to change course when the interest of constituents and public safety is finally deemed more valuable than the NRA’s dollars. This gives hope to gun safety advocates that demands will actually be met, and that victims won’t become another statistic in the unfathomable number schema that represents gun violence in the United States.
On the other hand, there are certain measures that were not taken up by the new Florida bill that signify the long road ahead for gun safety advocates. First, AR-15s can still be legally purchased in the state. This is the weapon that shooter Nicholas Cruz used to massacre 17 and injure dozens more at Stoneman Douglas; it is a military-grade weapon that simply does not belong in the hands of civilians, let alone on school grounds. There is seemingly no reason as to why this kind of weapon is legal for purchase following the Stoneman Douglas shooting. Furthermore, the bill does nothing by way of strengthening background checks in the state, a major flaw in the sale of guns in this country that continues to put lethal weapons in the hands of mentally unstable individuals, like Cruz. While the passage of the bill calls for celebration, it is just one incremental step in the fight for common sense gun legislation, and the fight cannot stop here.
Take a Stand With March For Our Lives: March For Our Lives is a grassroots organization mobilized by the students, victims, and community members directly impacted by the Parkland shooting. On March 24, cities across the country will walk in support of gun control and in solidarity with the victims of Parkland to make sure that another incident like the one in Parkland never happens again. To learn more about a march near you or to donate to the organization, click on the link above.
Stay in the Know With EFSGV: The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (EFSGV) is a D.C.-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that makes communities safer by translating research into policy. EFSGV does this through policy development, advocacy, community stakeholder engagement, and technical assistance. The organization is affiliated with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that serves as the advocating arm of EFSGV, working directly with members of Congress to pass common sense gun laws at the federal level. Stay up to date with the latest news on gun reform and research with EFSGV and CSGV by signing up for email alerts through clicking the first link above.
Support Everytown For Gun Safety: Everytown For Gun Safety is at the forefront of ending gun violence in all of its forms across the United States. As the largest gun violence prevention organization in the United States, Everytown consists of 4.5 million supporters working to change laws and lives by advocating for common sense gun legislation. You can support Everytown here, and learn more about its initiatives here.