What's Next For Florida Gun Laws

Originally published on March 8, 2018 8:21 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For the first time in decades, new gun control legislation in Florida is headed to the governor's desk. Earlier this week, the state Senate passed a school safety bill that includes new restrictions on rifle sales and a program to arm some school staff members. And on Wednesday, three weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the bill cleared the state House. I am joined now by State Representative Randy Fine. He is a Republican who voted for this bill. Thank you so much for being with us.

RANDY FINE: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: When we spoke with you late last week, you did not like the idea of raising the age limit to buy a gun. What changed your mind on this?

FINE: Well, I still didn't like the idea but the bill was a comprehensive $400 million solution. And in life, sometimes we have to take the bad with the good, and that's what many of us did in passing this compromised legislation.

MARTIN: One of the most contentious parts of this, as I mentioned, is this idea of arming some school staff. That provision was actually amended by the Florida Senate to gain more support. But can you explain how this is actually going to work? Who's going to carry weapons in schools?

FINE: Sure. If sheriffs choose to participate and school districts choose to participate, teachers will have the option to become guardians if they go through 132 hours of training, psychology tests, weapons training. And they'll have the ability to protect themselves so nothing like happens in Parkland ever happens again. We do not want teachers to be sitting ducks. God forbid should a student come onto campus like happened here.

MARTIN: Although, as you know - and this is someone - this is something lots of people are pointing out - there was an armed resource officer at Stoneman Marjory Douglass High School on that day and it didn't stop the massacre.

FINE: It didn't. But he wasn't trying to protect himself. He was being asked to go into harm's way. It's another thing if you're coach Aaron Feis, who's actually standing there with the shooter nearby, who had no ability to protect himself.

MARTIN: But it was in the idea that these guardians are supposed to be protecting children, so they're supposed to engage with the shooter.

FINE: They're supposed to engage but they're supposed - they will be there. These are people who are in the line of fire who, today, have no way to protect themselves. I talked to a teacher who said he grabbed a pair of scissors. Now, I don't know how a pair of scissors is supposed to be able to take on a mad man with a gun. This allows those folks to protect themselves. But more importantly, the idea here is of deterrence. Ninety-eight percent of mass casualty shootings have happened in gun-free zones. The idea is to say to these people, if you go to one of these schools, you may be in trouble.

MARTIN: Governor Rick Scott doesn't agree. He's suggested that adding more guns to a school environment will only make students more vulnerable. Teacher groups, educators across the country have agreed with him. I mean, Governor Scott in particular has floated an idea of putting an armed police officer in every public school in Florida for every thousand students. Why don't you think that's sufficient?

FINE: Well, part of our bill does increase the number of school resource officers, so there will be more of these people. It's a multipronged solution. But what we learned from this shooting is you have to be your own first responder. You cannot simply rely on others to come to your aid in the 1 to 5 minutes that some event like this takes place.

MARTIN: The bill doesn't strengthen background checks, which is something that many survivors from the Parkland shooting were hoping for. It had bipartisan support, this idea. Why didn't that happen?

FINE: Well, the Parkland families, the 17 families, all support the legislation as we passed it. I think things related to background checks are the responsibility of the federal government. But what we have done in this legislation is given our law enforcement more tools to take guns away from people who are educated to be mentally ill.

MARTIN: Florida State Representative Randy Fine, who has supported this bill in the Florida legislature. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

FINE: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.