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Governor Scott Signs School Safety Bill

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It seems that changes are coming for Florida in the wake of the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In fact, some significant changes are already here. Governor Rick Scott recently signed a bill overhauling the state’s laws governing firearm ownership.

In light of the bipartisan bill which has already been enacted and other new laws that could follow behind it, our Miami gun law attorneys are sharing vital information responsible gun owners in Florida should know.

Components of the Bill

Gov. Scott passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act on March 9, 2018. The legislation addresses school safety in particular and amends the state’s guidelines for purchasing and owning firearms. Specifically, it raised the age to purchase firearms in Florida from 18 to 21, adds additional provisions to gun purchases, restricts gun access for individuals showing signs of mental illness, and establishes a system for protecting schools and enhancing mental health care within them.

The $400 billion bill offers Florida’s first version of red flag legislation, allowing law enforcement to petition the court for risk protection orders to prohibit individuals who have been deemed a threat from having firearms for up to 12 months, as well as seize guns from those who have been involuntarily admitted for treatment under the Baker Act. On the note of mental health, mass shooting threats to schools will now be classified as acts of terrorism. The legislation also establishes a three-day waiting period for the purchase of firearms, with some exceptions for specified groups. A bump-fire stock ban is also part of the package, prohibiting the sale, distribution, and possession of these devices.

In terms of school safety, the bill gives sheriffs the power to offer a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program for schools within their jurisdiction. This program would allow individuals with 132 hours of extensive firearms training to possess a firearm on school grounds, a location where concealed carry was previously prohibited. The program would exclude individuals whose primary function on school grounds is to teach. Finally, all school districts will be required to have at least one safe-school officer on the premises, as well as a school safety specialist, a threat assessment team, and adequate mental health care professionals.

Public Criticism of the Bill

The legislation’s approval immediately drew criticism from the National Rifle Association, going as far to file a federal lawsuit challenging it. The organization issued a statement arguing that the law infringed upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Florida residents between the ages of 18 and 20. It also noted concerns over the three-day waiting period, stating that it would not have prevented the mass shootings which inspired the bill’s creation. Even Governor Scott criticized some aspects of the bill, such as the guardian program it institutes. However, he expressed support for the voluntary nature of having an armed educator or administrator on school grounds. It remains to be seen whether the NRA’s efforts to derail the law will prove to be effective.

Do you have questions about your rights as a firearms owner in Florida, or feel that yours have been infringed upon? Contact our Miami gun law attorneys to learn more about how we can seek justice, together.

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