TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected Friday to meet with families of the 17 people who were killed in a school shooting, and then sign a $400 million school safety bill with new gun controls opposed by the NRA and a plan to arm staff that teachers don’t want.
State Rep. Jared Moskowitz — a Democrat who represents the South Florida district where the shooting happened — said in a text that Scott will sign the bill on Friday. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the same.
“The community’s demanding action, they want something done,” said Rubio on CBS television. “I believe he’ll sign it today.”
The Legislature delivered the bill to Scott on Thursday. It narrowly passed the House and Senate, and falls short of what he wanted and what survivors of the massacre demanded. Florida’s teachers’ union and the National Rifle Association are opposed.
The measure would raise the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21, extend a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns, and ban bump stocks that allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire.
In schools, it would create a “guardian” program enabling staff with law enforcement training and school district approval to carry concealed handguns on campus. It would create new mental health programs for schools and establish an anonymous tip line where students and others could report threats. It also seeks to improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state agencies.
The National Rifle Association opposes raising age limits to buy weapons or imposing new waiting periods. In a statement Thursday, NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer called the bill “a display of bullying and coercion” that would violate Second Amendment rights and punish law-abiding citizens.
Teachers, meanwhile, called on Scott to use his line-item veto power to zero out the $67 million set aside for the program to train and arm school employees. The Florida Education Association sent a letter to Scott on Thursday saying only trained law enforcement officers should have guns in schools.
The Republican governor, who is expected to seek a U.S. Senate seat later this year, has called for raising the minimum age to purchase any type of gun and said he does not support arming teachers. Instead, he wanted lawmakers to adopt his own $500 million proposal to put at least one law enforcement officer in every school.
The governor has 15 days to sign the measure, veto it or let it become law without his signature.
Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican and one of the main sponsors of the legislation, says he expects Scott will sign it.
“The bill is far too comprehensive for the governor to let a few provisions prevent the positive changes this bill embodies,” Galvano said.
President Donald Trump congratulated Florida lawmakers, saying they “passed a lot of very good legislation.” Trump also said the White House is working on a plan to ban bump stocks, and efforts to enhance background checks were “moving along well” in Congress.
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killed, said more needs to be done, but there’s enough good in the bill that it should pass.
“My precious daughter Meadow’s life was taken, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. But make no mistake: I’m a father, and I’m on a mission. I’m on a mission to make sure I’m the last dad to ever read a statement of this kind.”
Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, faces 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the massacre. He was scheduled to make his initial appearance before a judge via video conference on Friday on the attempted murder charges added this week by the grand jury.
Cruz’s public defender withdrew an initial not-guilty plea, leaving him to “stand mute” for now, but has said he will plead guilty if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table and sentence him to life in prison instead. Prosecutors have not announced a decision.
Among the newly released recordings of 911 calls from the shooting, the parents of a 17-year-old girl can be heard telling a dispatcher that their daughter is texting from a classroom where the door’s glass was shot out. “Three shot in her room. Oh my God. Oh my God,” the mother says, raising her voice.
The 12 minutes of radio transmissions released by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office highlight the chaos at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The excerpts show a deputy on school grounds first thought the loud bangs were firecrackers, then realized they were gunshots — yet he never ran toward them. Other law enforcement officers desperately tried to treat the injured, lock down the school and locate the shooter.
Associated Press writers Terry Spencer, Jennifer Kay and Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami contributed to this report.