Monday, March 12, 2018

Florida governor signs bill imposing limits on gun purchases; other states could follow

Three weeks after the deadly Parkland school shooting, Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill imposing new limits on firearms purchases. It was a surprising move for a governor who has ardently supported gun rights in the past. Hours after Scott signed the law, the National Rifle Association filed suit in federal court to block the part of the law that raises the minimum age for purchasing long guns to 21, saying it violates the constitutional rights of 18-20-year-olds.

The law also imposes a three-day waiting period for most long gun purchases, bans the possession of bump stocks, establishes a program to arm some school personnel, allocates hundreds of millions of dollars on school security and mental health treatment, and makes it easier for law enforcement and judges to take guns from people considered dangerous to themselves or others.

Before signing the bill, Scott repeated his opposition to the new waiting periods as well as arming teachers. "After Scott came out against arming teachers in schools, state Republican leaders amended the bill to exclude school employees who work exclusively as classroom teachers from being part of the 'school marshal' program," Michael Scherer reports for The Washington Post. "The program is voluntary for school districts, and any school employees who carry a weapon will have to undergo 132 hours of law enforcement training with the county sheriff’s office, pass a background check and take additional diversity training."

Scott's willingness to allow limits on gun purchases tracks with public opinion in Florida, which has seen three mass shootings in the past two years: at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and Fort-Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. A recent poll found that 78 percent of Florida residents support raising the age for all gun purchases to 21, 87 percent support a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases, and 56 percent support allowing school personnel to carry guns on school grounds, Scherer reports. Florida Democrats accused Scott of signing the new law for political reasons. Scott has taken steps toward challenging Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson for a Senate seat, but has not yet formally declared his candidacy.

The Parkland shooting may prove to be a catalyst for other gun-related legislation. At least 38 states have introduced or passed gun-related legislation since the Parkland shooting. The Chicago Tribune did a great job of rounding up pending gun legislation in other states, along with data about each state's political landscape and how each state rates on gun owners' rights and preventing gun violence.

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