Schools should have 'active shooter training,' says Florida governor as teachers return
Rick Scott's gun safety plan includes raising minimum age to purchase firearms to 21, ban on bump stocks
Florida's governor announced plans Friday to put more armed guards in schools and to make it harder for young adults and some with mental illness to buy guns, responding to days of intense lobbying from survivors of last week's shooting at a Florida high school.
Gov. Rick Scott unveiled his school safety proposals as teachers returned for the first time to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School since the Valentine's Day shooting nine days ago that killed 17 people.
The shooting sparked an intense push to restrict access to assault rifles fuelled by student activists who swarmed the state capitol demanding concrete gun control measures.
U.S. President Donald Trump said repeatedly Friday that he favoured arming teachers to protect students, an idea many educators rejected out of hand.
"I am totally against arming teachers," Broward schools superintendent Robert Runcie said. "They have a challenging job as it is."
Scott, a Republican widely expected to run for the Senate, outlined his plan at a Tallahassee news conference. In addition to banning firearm sales to anyone under 21, the governor called for a trained law enforcement officer for every 1,000 students at every school in Florida by the time the fall 2018 school year begins.
Scott's plan also calls for:
- A trained law enforcement officer in every school in Florida by the time the 2018 school year begins.
- One officer for every 1,000 students on campus.
- The sale of bump stocks be banned.
- Mandatory "active shooter training" at all schools. Students, teachers and staff must complete all training and "code red" drills by the end of the first week of each semester.
- Prohibiting a "violent or mentally ill person" from purchasing a firearm through a sworn request by a family or community member, called a "violent threat restraining order."
Scott, a National Rifle Association (NRA) member, said the changes came out of emergency meetings organized with law enforcement, school administrators and mental-health experts, and involving students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Some… are advocating a mass takeaway of Second Amendment rights.- Gov. Rick Scott
The proposal would strengthen gun purchase and possession restrictions for mentally ill people under the state's Baker Act, which allows someone to be involuntarily hospitalized for up to 72 hours. Scott is seeking $50 million for mental health initiatives that include expanding mental health services by providing counselling, crisis management and other mental health services for youth and young adults.
"No one with mental issues should have access to a gun. It is common sense. It for their own best interest, much less the best interest of our communities," Scott said.
"I know there are some who are advocating a mass takeaway of Second Amendment rights for all Americans. That is not the answer," Scott said. "We all have a difficult task in front of us … balancing our individual rights with our obvious need for public safety."
The announcement comes in the wake of sharp criticism of Scott for not showing up at the CNN-hosted town hall in Sunrise, Fla., on Wednesday night that was attended by U.S. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch.
Nelson has questioned Scott's commitment to make meaningful change after massacre.
'He certainly did a poor job'
The governor's plan made no mention of arming teachers on school grounds.
After days of funerals for those killed in the attack, teachers have begun the emotionally fraught process of returning to the school to collect belongings from classrooms that have been off-limits since the slayings. Classes resume Wednesday, but officials have said the building will be torn down.
Stoneman Douglas, which has more than 3,000 students, had one armed resource officer. He did not confront the assailant or enter the building during the attack, officials said Thursday.
That failure plus reports of a delays related to security camera footage and records indicating the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, long displayed behavioural troubles added to what the Florida House Speaker described as an "abject breakdown at all levels."
Cruz, 19, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
On Friday, Trump described the campus officer as a "coward" who "didn't react properly under pressure."
While leaving the White House for the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump said: "When it came time to get in there and do something," Florida deputy Scot Peterson "didn't have the courage or something happened."
"He certainly did a poor job, there's no question about that," Trump said.
Criticism of NRA mounts
The White House has said Trump will soon lay out a package of school and gun safety proposals for Congress to consider. Connecticut Chris Murphy, an outspoken advocate for more gun restrictions after the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., said he expected to meet with White House aides next week.
"I'm here to hear the White House out," Murphy said.
As criticism mounted against the NRA in the aftermath of the shooting, three car rental brands owned by Enterprise Holdings Inc. announced they would end discount programs with NRA members.
National Car Rental, Enterprise and Alamo tweeted on Thursday that the move is effective March 26.
On Thursday, First National Bank of Omaha said it would not renew a contract with the organization to issue an NRA-branded Visa card.
With files from CBC News