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Florida Senate Passes Legislation Aimed At Preventing School Shootings


The Florida Senate has just passed a school safety bill that allows some teachers to carry guns and puts new restrictions on rifle sales. Parents of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High gathered at the school earlier today to press for action.


LORI ALHADEFF: No kid should have to say to their mother, Mommy, am I going to die today if I go to school? Think about it.

KELLY: That's Lori Alhadeff. Her daughter Alyssa died in last month's shooting. We're joined now by NPR's Greg Allen. He's in Florida's capital, Tallahassee. Hey, Greg.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So you were watching the debate in the state Senate today. Tell us a little bit more about the gun measures that they voted on.

ALLEN: Right. They voted and passed a pretty significant comprehensive package of measures designed, as they say, to try to avoid another school shooting like we saw at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It includes $400 million of money to do stuff like add metal detectors, bulletproof glass, upgrade security in schools but also to hire mental health counselors, to get more mental health counseling in the schools to identify kids with problems and to head them off beforehand, also money for school resource officers. There'll be a lot more officers in the schools, things like that.

Some of the more controversial measures were to raise the age limit for buying guns in Florida from 18 to 21 for all firearms purchases and also a three-day waiting period. And they're banning bump stocks. So those are all important things. Those were things that were opposed by the NRA as well.

KELLY: And they passed them. What about this idea I mentioned of arming teachers, something we've, of course, heard from a number of politicians, including President Trump?

ALLEN: That's right. And it's - it is in the - it is something they passed in some capacity. They tried to weaken it a little bit to bring some more support in. The way it's written now is that it says that anyone who is exclusively a classroom teacher - this would not apply to them. They would not be eligible to carry a gun in school. But they left open the possibility that if you, say - you coach the wrestling team and you're a teacher, then you might be able to carry a gun in school if you get the 132 hours of training and if the sheriff's office there wants to do that and if the school district wants to do it.

So it's an opt-in program. And I think that when you come down to it, 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. Their sheriffs say they don't want to. But some of the rural counties are already trying it out. And I think it's going to go forward there but just not with people who are just exclusively classroom teachers.

KELLY: And again, just to stress what they've passed would be an opt-in program, meaning wouldn't be mandatory. Local governments, counties can decide what they want to do about it.

ALLEN: Right. And they say this is the most far-reaching thing in the country. But like I say, it will depend - we'll have to see how it shakes out. And, of course, this is just in the Senate.

KELLY: Yeah, what happens in the House?

ALLEN: Right. Well, Governor Scott also has been opposed to the idea of arming teachers. He's said that all along. And so it now will move to the House. This was a very tight vote, 20 to 18. You had a lot of Democrats who voted against it, also a lot of Republicans who are with the NRA who voted against it. So it'll be interesting when it runs through the House. It's going to be very tightly watched there. You've got a lot of support for the NRA in the Florida House. So it might run into trouble there. So we'll have to wait and see. That's what will happen later this week.

KELLY: All right, that's NPR's Greg Allen in Tallahassee. Thanks very much, Greg.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
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