Miami: Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill backed by relatives of Parkland school shooting victims that restricts access to firearms and paves the way for some school staff to be armed.
Until yesterday, it was not clear if Scott would sign the measure which cleared the Florida legislature on Wednesday after three weeks of debate, during which emotions ran high.
The law raises the minimum age to purchase all firearms from 18 to 21 — a move opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group — bans modification devices that make a semi-automatic weapon fully automatic and increases mental health funding.
It also includes a voluntary “guardian program” named after coach Aaron Feis, who was slain in the Parkland attack.
The measure is intended to “aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises” by allowing some school employees to be armed.
The program is mainly aimed at staff such as coaches and school personnel, with teachers eligible if they have military or law enforcement experience.
Governor Scott, who had expressed his support for gun control and improving mental health resources, had also repeatedly said he did not support the “guardian program” included in the bill.
But he stressed that the program is voluntary, and that police sheriffs and school boards — who decide whether to implement it — are locally elected officials.
“My focus is law enforcement, this is their job, they’re trained to do this,” he told reporters. “I believe teachers should teach.” “Sheriffs have to sign it on… school boards have to sign it on… and no individual is going to be forced to do it,” he added.
The bill does not ban selling or owning semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15 assault rifle Nikolas Cruz used to massacre 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, north of Miami, on February 14.
“Rather than banning specific weapons, we need to ban specific people from buying any weapon,” Scott said.