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Posted at: Mar 9, 2018, 1:41 AM; last updated: Mar 9, 2018, 1:41 AM (IST)

Florida passes Bill to restrict guns

3 weeks after massacre, minimum age to buy firearms raised to 21
Florida passes Bill to restrict guns
Seeking change: Francine Wheeler displays a photograph of her son, Sandy Hook Elementary shooting victim Ben Wheeler, while participating in a meeting on gun violence in Washington. AFP

Miami, March 8

The US state of Florida, scene of America’s latest school shooting, has passed Bill that raises the minimum age to buy firearms to 21 while funding a programme that allows some teachers and school employees to be armed.

The “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” which takes its name from February 14 massacre in which 17 persons, including 14 students were killed, passed the legislature’s lower house a day after clearing the senate.

It will now be sent to Governor Rick Scott to sign. The Republican has not indicated whether he would veto the law, but he has previously expressed opposition to US President Donald Trump’s call to arm teachers.

America’s long moribund gun control debate was revived by survivors of the Parkland shooting, who a day after their school was attacked launched the “Never Again” movement demanding legislative action.

The Bill 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 programme” named after Coach Aaron Feis who was slain in the Parkland attack, which 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 programme is mainly aimed at staff such as coaches and school personnel, with teachers eligible if they have military or law enforcement experience. Bringing more guns into school has been a controversial idea, but lawmakers defended the Bill.

Meanwhile, Democrat legislators said the guardian programme was a “poison pill” in a law otherwise taking necessary steps towards gun control. African-American representatives also expressed fears that arming black school employees could leave them vulnerable to being mistaken for attackers by police arriving on the scene of a mass shooting.

However, the Bill does not ban the sale of the AR-15 assault rifle-the weapon used by Nikolas Cruz-one of activists’ key demands. — AFP

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act

  • Imposes a three-day waiting period for the purchase of all firearms, not just handguns, or until a background check is completed, whichever is longer

  • Raises the minimum legal age to purchase a rifle or shotgun to 21 from 18. Federal law already prohibits anyone under 21 from buying a handgun

  • Outlaws bump stocks, which enable a semi-automatic weapon to be fired as an automatic weapon. Such devices were used in a mass shooting in Las Vegas last year

  • Allows local sheriff’s departments to establish a “guardian programme” in which school personnel can be permitted to voluntarily carry a gun on the job 

  • Allows police to temporarily seize firearms from someone who has been taken into custody for an involuntary mental examination under Florida’s so-called Baker Act statute

  • Prohibits anyone from owning or possessing a firearm who has been judged mentally incompetent or has been committed to a mental institution, until a court rules otherwise


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