By Athena Jones and Carolyn Sung
As the Florida House prepares to vote as soon as Wednesday on a measure aimed at boosting school safety, the state’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, is still not saying whether he would sign the bill, which includes a provision he opposes that would allow some teachers and other school staff to carry weapons.
Whether to sign the bill — proposed in the wake of the high school massacre in Parkland — is an important political consideration for Scott, who is term-limited and is widely expected to challenge Florida’s Democratic US senator, Bill Nelson, in the November mid-term election.
“The Governor will make a decision when the final bill reaches his desk,” his spokeswoman, Lauren Schenone, said Tuesday night in a statement. “He’s been clear — he doesn’t think teachers should be armed.”
Scott was set to meet Wednesday morning with his Cabinet. Florida’s House and Senate are majority Republican, and their legislative session ends Friday.
Scott also concerned about waiting period
The “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” would raise the age to purchase a firearm to 21 from 18; require a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases, with some exceptions; ban the sale or possession of bump fire stocks, which allow a semiautomatic weapon to fire more like an automatic weapon; give law enforcement more power to seize weapons and ammunition from those deemed mentally unfit or otherwise a threat; and provide additional funding for armed school resource officers and mental health services.
The state Senate on Monday amended the most contentious provision in the bill — establishing a voluntary program that would allow school personnel to be armedâ€Ž if they undergo 144 hours of training — to address concerns raised by students, teachers, parents and Scott, who argued, “Teachers should teach.”
Under the change, those who “exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers” wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the program. Teachers who perform additional duties, like coaching football or heading the drama club, would be allowed to participate, as would other school staff like administrators and cafeteria workers.
Shortly after the Senate limited which teachers would be allowed to be armed, the governor’s office called the move “a step in the right direction,” but by Tuesday night, Scott’s office had restated his opposition.
Scott “has also expressed concern over the three-day waiting period currently included in the Legislation,” Schenone said in the Tuesday night statement.
As of mid-morning Wednesday, the House hadn’t made any changes to the Senate version.
Students from Parkland, some of whom have become fierce advocates for gun control in the wake of the February 14 shooting that left 17 people dead, have demanded an assault weapons ban and have urged lawmakers not to allow the arming of teachers.â€Ž
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