Gov. Rick Scott made an unusual appearance before the House and Senate Thursday afternoon in a move to bring legislators together on the issue of school safety. He appeared with the father and brother of 14-year-old Alaina Petty, who was killed in the school shootings in Parkland more than two weeks ago.
“There’s nothing we can do to bring my daughter, Alaina, back,″ Ryan Petty told legislators. “As a tribute to her I’m here today, as a final act of service to my daughter Alaina, to make sure this never happens again. This time must be the last time. Make it the last time.”
The appearance by Scott and Petty came amid speculation that the school safety legislation was in trouble.
“We have to get a bill passed that’s going to fix public safety in our schools,” Scott said outside the legislative chambers. “In my case, I’m going to continue to work hard to get this done, but I know in Ryan Petty’s case they have an unbelievable need to get something accomplished.”
Proposals in the three separate versions of the legislation–introduced by the governor, House and Senate–has caused some division among legislators.
Conservative lawmakers are troubled by what they see as an intrusion on gun rights, including the establishment of a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases and prohibiting anyone under 21 from buying any type of firearm.
“If this evolves into a gun control debate we are going to miss our opportunity to get something done,” Petty said. “What is different of the governor’s plan is we are focusing on securing our schools and that is what we need to do.”
Democrats have problems with the legislative proposals that would permit the arming of teachers and staff if they are properly trained.
Scott opposes the idea of arming teachers. Instead, he supports more school resource officers.
“I want to make sure there is a law enforcement presence in our schools. I don’t believe in arming the teachers,” Scott said.
All three plans call for nearly $500 million to improve mental health treatment in schools and hardening of school facilities to make it more difficult for potential shooters from gaining access to schools in the future. Those proposals have the backing of the governor and both chambers of the Legislature.
Both the House and Senate are slated to take up their individual school safety plans on Friday, one week before the scheduled end of the 2018 legislative session.