Gun Policy Package Faces Stiff Opposition In Florida

Mar 2, 2018
Originally published on March 2, 2018 8:39 am
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Today, Florida lawmakers vote on gun legislation. Leaders of the Republican-dominated legislature support the bill after the shootings at a Florida school. Ryan Petty, the father of 14-year-old Alaina Petty, who was killed at that school, wants the legislature to pass something.


RYAN PETTY: We can make it the last time if we don't get mired down in the politics.

INSKEEP: But NPR's Greg Allen has been telling us there is opposition. Hi there, Greg.


INSKEEP: How strong is the opposition?

ALLEN: Well, you know, part of this measure that's being considered today would put some restrictions on gun sales, and that's something that's always hard in a state where the NRA has a lot of support. The bill would allow officers to temporarily seize guns of people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others. That doesn't seem so problematic.

But the other issues that have caused some opposition is that it would impose a three-day waiting period on gun sales and increase the age for all gun purchases to 21. That would have an impact in the case of someone like Nikolas Cruz, who was 18 when he bought the weapon that he used in Parkland. The NRA opposes those two provisions. And, as I say, they have significant clout. Some Republican lawmakers have indicated because of those, they're going to vote no today.

INSKEEP: OK. So the Republicans are divided. That brings the Democrats into play in this Republican-dominated legislature. Do enough Democrats support this bill?

ALLEN: Well, again, we'll have to see today. But Democrats, and even some of the parents and students from Parkland, don't like one of the provisions in the bill. That's something that's called the school marshal plan, and it would allow certain teachers who receive extensive training to carry guns in the classroom. And it's not just Democrats who don't like it. Florida's Governor Rick Scott, he's got his own measures that he's been talking about, some of which are similar to what's being considered today. But he doesn't like that school marshal plan. Here's what the governor says.


RICK SCOTT: I've been very clear. I want to make sure we have significant law enforcement presence at every school. I want to make sure we harden our schools. But I don't support arming teachers.

ALLEN: You know, among the key issues here is whether this program would be voluntary for school districts and the sheriff's departments and the counties, or if it would be mandatory. So that we'll have to see today. It could make a big difference.

INSKEEP: OK. So we do have the possibility at least that this measure passes and gets past the opposition from the right and the left, but also the possibility, I guess, that it falls a little bit short. So just talk us through the scenario here. What happens if this doesn't pass?

ALLEN: Well, the legislature has really just a week left here before they recess. That's the recess a week from today. And they have a lot to get done, including the budget. So I think that they really want to get this done. There is a sense that there's momentum. It's been growing since the students from Parkland and the parents all came here, you know, last week, and they've really been here throughout the process. They still are putting a lot of pressure on the legislature, and it does seem that there's a lot of will to get things done. And bills are often amended at the last minute, though, here. And we'll have to see what happens, what kind of bill actually comes to the vote on the floor, and whether the bills in the Senate in the House are similar enough to actually, you know, pass and be reconciled.

INSKEEP: Greg, have you heard very many lawmakers say at any point, I think this issue is so important, I might vote for the bill even if it's not 100 percent what I like?

ALLEN: Well, what surprised people, I think, was the momentum that had been building has kind of then been then slowed down in recent days. At first it looked like - and the House speaker, who has a lot of control of his body, always has acted confident, and then we started hearing these individual members and the NRA and you realize that this organization, it still does have a lot of clout and they're not going away. And I think they're going to have an impact on the final version of this bill.

INSKEEP: Greg, thanks.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Greg Allen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.