On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott met with the loved ones of the 17 people who were murdered in the Parkland school shooting last month. After these meetings in Tallahassee, Scott signed a law that will create stricter measures for gun purchases across the state.
The legislation, Senate Bill 7026, will allow only those 21 years or older to purchase firearms; require a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases (with some exceptions); ban the sale or possession of bump fire stocks; ban people deemed “mentally defective” or who have been committed to a mental institution from owning or possessing firearms until a court grants relief; let law enforcement officers ask a court to temporarily prohibit someone from possessing or buying firearms or ammunition if there is evidence the person poses a threat to themselves or others, and provide additional funding for armed school resource officers and mental health services.
The bill will also enact the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which would allow some teachers to be armed if both the local school district and sheriff’s department agree. This portion of the bill is named for the coach who heroically lost his life after he shielded students with his own body during the Feb. 14 shooting.
According to NPR, the legislation has generated mixed feelings across the state and the country. Some people believe the bill is not doing enough to restrict gun laws, while other feel the bill is far too restrictive. In our opinion, although we are pleased with the steps taken, this bill is not restrictive enough.
The bill has regulations that are points of success, including the increased age restriction on buying guns and the banning of bump stocks were necessary. We are further pleased to see the bill will allow law enforcement officers to ask a court to temporarily prohibit someone from possessing or buying firearms or ammunition if there is evidence the person poses a threat to themselves or others and there will be increased funding for mental health services in schools.
However, we can’t say we feel as excited about the remainder of the legislation. We feel deeming members of society “mentally defective” is vague and will prove challenging when put into action. According to its definition by Florida statutes, a person can only be considered legally “mentally defective” if they have been labeled as such by the court. This means a person who may not be mentally fit to own a gun could still purchase one so long as they have not run into legal trouble in the past. As such, this point seems moot and could further lead to discrimination against the mentally ill, should gun sellers decide to label potential buyers on their own.
The most glaring issue with this bill is the idea of arming some teachers and faculty members. We recognize this will be restricted. For example, teachers who are primarily classroom teachers will not be able to carry a gun unless they have military or law enforcement training. The program is also voluntary, so no faculty members or teachers are required to carry a gun and those who are qualified and want to carry one must take 144 hours of training. However, we cannot get behind the idea of adding more firearms to solve the problems at hand.
We cannot fight firearms with more firearms, nor can we allow students to have an opportunity to be in the same space as firearms. Even if the owner of the gun is well trained, this does not stop a student from taking the gun and using it themselves.
Overall, we are pleased to see the state moving forward with gun control legislation, but there is much more work to be done if we really want to see an end to horrific mass shootings like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.