Mon, Mar 05, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Florida Senate to vote on bill to limit gun purchases

AP, TALLAHASSEE, Florida

The Florida Senate on Saturday agreed to advance a bill that would increase school safety and restrict gun purchases during a rare weekend session that often turned into a debate on gun control and arming teachers in the aftermath of last month’s Parkland school shootings

The Senate spent nearly eight hours on Saturday debating dozens of amendments to the 100-page bill before finally approving the legislation for a final vote today.

Democratic proposals to ban assault rifles and large-capacity magazines were rejected, as was a Democratic proposal to strip language from the bill that would create a program to arm teachers who have gone through law-enforcement training if school districts choose to take part in the so-called marshal plan.

The Senate began the session at 10am and was originally supposed to wrap up discussion by 1pm, but senators extended the session and did not wrap up until after 6pm.

It was clear that senators were divided on the bill, and not just on party lines. While crafted by Republicans, some Republican senators still opposed it because they do not agree with raising the minimum age to guy a rifle from 18 to 21 or requiring a waiting period to buy the weapons.

Democrats believe the legislation does not go far enough in some ways and too far in others. While some oppose the bill, others believe it is at least a first step toward gun safety.

Democrats want to ban weapons such as the AR-15 assault-style rifle, which was used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. Many also oppose arming teachers.

The bill also includes provisions to boost school security, establish new mental health programs in schools, and improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state agencies.

However, much of the debate on Saturday revolved around gun control and whether people should have a right to own an assault rifle.

“Every constitutional right that we hold dear has a limitation,” Democratic Senator Gary Farmer said. “These are just military-style killing machines and the right of self-defense and the ability to hunt will go on.”

Republicans argued that banning such weapons would violate the Second Amendment.

“Our founding fathers weren’t talking about hunting, and they weren’t talking about protecting themselves from the thief down the street who might break in,” Republican Senator David Simmons said.

Simmons said people need guns to protect themselves from a tyrannical government.

“Adolf Hitler confiscated all the weapons — took all the weapons, had a registry of everybody — and then on the night of June 30th, 1934, sent out his secret police and murdered all of his political opponents,” Simmons said. “You think it doesn’t happen in a free society? It does.”

The state’s House of Representatives has yet to take up its version of the bill.

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