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Florida Senate Approves Gun Control Package; OKs Arming Some School Personnel

Florida Sen. Lauren Book wipes her eyes during the debate over gun control at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

The Florida State Senate passed a package of gun control measures designed to prevent another school shooting like the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month.

The proposals, which passed by a 20-18 vote, include raising age restrictions on the purchase of all firearms in the state, banning the purchase and possession of bump stocks, and sets a three-day waiting period to buy any gun, including rifles and shotguns.

The package also provides $400 million for mental health services, including mobile crisis teams and school safety programs, such as metal detectors, bullet-proof glass and school resource officers.

The lawmakers rejected a statewide ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity magazines.

Perhaps the most controversial proposal is a measure to arm some teachers despite the opposition of Gov. Rick Scott. The lawmakers passed an "opt-in" program as a last-minute amendment, according to the Miami Herald.

"Under the amendment, proposed by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami, classroom teachers would not be armed if a school district decides to participate in the so-called 'school marshal' program established in response to the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. However, other school personnel, including support staff who provide some instructional work, current or former servicemen or JROTC instructors, would be able to carry firearms."

Regarding arming teachers, NPR's Greg Allen told All Things Considered,

"A lot of districts like Miami-Dade and Broward County are not going to take part in it. They say they don't want to do it. The sheriffs say they don't want to. But some of the rural counties are already trying it out and I think it will go forward there, but not just with people who are exclusively classroom teachers."

Lawmakers in both parties found items they opposed in the package. Some Democrats objected to arming any teachers, while some Republicans opposed setting a waiting period to buy any gun and raising the age limit from 18 to 21.

As Greg added, this is only the state Senate's package, which passed on a thin margin.

"You had a lot of Democrats who voted against it, also a lot of Republicans, who are with the NRA, who voted against it. ... You got a lot of support for the NRA in the Florida House, so it might run into trouble there."

The House's legislative session is scheduled to end on March 9.

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