The House and Senate announced they would delay taking action on their respective gun control/school safety packages. The Senate was scheduled to begin debate on Friday but there has been some question as to whether the measures have the needed support of enough legislators to pass the legislation.
In a rare move, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, set a three-hour session on Saturday to take up the Senate proposals.
“Senator (Bill) Galvano has informed me that he would like to temporarily postpone consideration of Senate Bill 7026 today to allow additional time to work on this important issue,” said Negron in a memo sent to Senate members Friday morning. “I do not want to delay consideration of Senate Bill 7026 until next week, possibly affecting the House’s ability to hear the Senate Bill. Holding a sitting on Saturday is the best option for both working within our existing rules and affording this legislation the serious time and consideration it deserves.”
The Senate plans to take up the school safety package on second reading on Saturday with the third reading and a final vote being held Monday.
The session is scheduled to end next Friday, which has raised questions about whether lawmakers have time to reach an agreement.
One of the obstacles that has bogged down the legislation is a proposal to arm teachers who undergo the proper training, The Senate version would allow school districts to opt into such a program. The House version, referred to as the “marshal plan,” would be mandatory and would require teachers who wish to carry concealed weapons at schools to be a certified law enforcement who would be under the direction of local sheriff’s offices.
Gov. Rick Scott opposes the idea of arming teachers. Instead, he supports more school resource officers. Scott took the unusual step Thursday afternoon of appearing before legislators in session to urge them to reject the idea..
Scott appeared with the father of one of the victims killed in the Parkland school shooting over two weeks ago.
“I want to make sure there is a law enforcement presence in our schools. I don’t believe in arming the teachers,” Scott said.
Critics, including religious leaders and educators, of the school safety legislative packages rallied outside the House chambers Friday morning.
“We stand with Gov. Scott as it relates to that no teacher ought to be armed to carry guns in school,” said Rev. R.B. Holmes of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee. “They ought to pack notes, pack computers, and not guns. That decision is downright wrong.”
The groups are also upset that neither school safety package includes a ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault-style firearms. They accuse lawmakers of pandering to the National Rifle Association.
“Floridians must come first. Not the NRA,” said Rev. Joe Parramore of New Journey Ministries.
The upcoming votes on the school safety packages has put many lawmakers, especially conservatives who have spent their political careers protecting gun rights, in a difficult position.
Both chambers are proposing setting a minimum age of 21 for buying any firearm in Florida, establishing background checks on most gun sales and banning the sale of bump stocks. The NRA opposes those measures.
In addition to arming teachers, Democrats are also upset the proposals don’t include a ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault-style firearms. They have filed dozens of amendments that ban assault rifles and broaden background checks.