Senior members of state leadership are putting significant policy changes on the table in the wake of last week’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. This includes the kinds of gun safety measures that have received little attention in the Republican-dominated Legislature in previous years.
The proposals are in consideration for the busloads of students from the school that are planning to come to Tallahassee to march, meet with the state’s highest political leaders and demand action.
Ideas for consideration by the next Senate president, Bill Galvano, include: raising the age at which one can buy assault rifles to 21; creating a three-day waiting period for assault rifles as it is for handguns; and “identifying and closing background screening loopholes.”
Galvano also mentioned the idea of creating a type of gun violence restraining order, like domestic violence restraining orders, that would allow family members and others to get a judge to order an individual not have access to firearms if certain criteria are met. He also floated the idea of banning bump stocks, a device that can make a semi-automatic rifle effectively fire like an automatic firearm; it was used by the Las Vegas mass shooter last year.
Galvano said he’s also looking for “gaps” related to school resource officers, considering how to possibly adjust funding to raise the number of officers. Another idea Galvano stated is having a system to train teachers and other school officials to become special deputies and carry guns on school grounds after a 132-hour training program.
He’s also already called for doubling the Senate’s $40 million proposal for mental health services at schools. He credits Senate K-12 budget Chairwoman Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) with having the prudence to propose the idea early on in session.
House and Senate leaders appear to be considering a lot of the same ideas. State Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Broward Democrat who graduated from Stoneman Douglas, said he’s been working on a bipartisan plan with House Speaker Richard Corcoran and House budget chief Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami) that is “very close” to the set of ideas that have come out of the Senate. Moskowitz said he brought Corcoran and Trujillo to the high school so they could see the scene of the tragedy with their own eyes. It is the only way to pass meaningful policy in the last three weeks of this year’s legislative session, he said.
“I wanted them to see in person and not on TV, not through the filter of the media,” he said. “I wanted them to see it on their own.”
House K-12 budget chairman, state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. (R-Miami), is very vocal about his support for the direction the Senate is taking. He told POLITICO he wants to see a “comprehensive approach” to solving the problem.
He’s also amenable to a lot of the gun safety ideas that Galvano has thrown out. His “gut reaction,” he said, would be to treat semi-automatic rifles like semi-automatic handguns; that is, to extend the three day-waiting period and age requirements currently in place for semi-automatic handguns to all semi-automatic weapons.
“I don’t see that as taking away anyone’s Second Amendment rights, I see that as uniform policy across the state,” he said. Bump stock bans, too, “should be part of the conversation.”
Nonetheless, Diaz kept going back to the need for a holistic approach to the matter: “You can’t just say ‘ban guns,’ and you can’t just say ‘mental health.’ It has to be comprehensive.”
For Diaz, that includes improving communication and coordination between schools, local, state and federal agencies. It also includes having “an honest conversation that our schools are not a safe place in the world we live in today.”
The way it is, he said Florida’s schools are “soft targets” and “there aren’t a lot of things in place in our schools that would prevent things from shootings to makeshift bombs.”
Ideas can range from training for teachers and students alike, to addressing concerns he heard about teachers “not even having a safe space where they can lock their kids into” during violent incidents like active shootings.
Mental health funding is also important to address, Diaz said, though he thinks they haven’t settled on “a magic number,” noting that increases in funding would more than likely be shifted from somewhere else in the budget.
Diaz Jr. expects lawmakers will have time over the next few weeks to approve and fund solutions, but “I do think that future Legislatures are going to have to come back and review these things to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.”
Gov. Rick Scott, appearing on CNN last week, said he would not rule out any type of legislation to deal with the school security, though he has not committed to any specific policy ideas.