In response to a deadly Florida school shooting last month, the state’s Senate narrowly passed a bill today that would create new restrictions on rifle sales and allow some teachers to carry guns in schools.
The 20-18 vote came after three hours of often emotional debate. Support and opposition crossed party lines, and it was clear many of those who voted for the bill weren’t entirely happy with it.
“Do I think this bill goes far enough? No! No, I don’t!” said Democratic Sen. Lauren Book, who tearfully described visiting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after 17 people were fatally shot on Valentine’s Day.
She also would have liked a ban on assault-style rifles, like many of the students who travelled to the state capitol to ask lawmakers to go even further to stop future mass shootings. But Book said she couldn’t let the legislative session end Friday without doing something.
She said, “My community was rocked. My school children were murdered in their classrooms. I cannot live with a choice to put party politics above an opportunity to get something done that inches us closer to the place I believe we should be as a state.This is the first step in saying never again.”
Reading a statement outside the school, Ryan Petty implored legislators to pass Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to add armed security guards, keep guns away from the mentally ill and improve mental health programs for at-risk teens. Scott also opposes arming teachers.
“We must be the last families to lose loved ones in a mass shooting at a school. This time must be different and we demand action,” said Petty, reading from the group statement.
Petty’s 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, was killed in the Feb. 14 shooting, along with 13 schoolmates and three staff members.
The bill would name the program for slain assistant football coach Aaron Feis, who has been hailed as a hero for shielding students during the school attack. The 37-year-old graduated from Stoneman Douglas in 1999 and worked mainly with the junior varsity, living in nearby Coral Springs with his wife and daughter. Republican Sen. Bill Galvano said he asked for and received the approval of Feis’ family to name the program for him.