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Yes, Florida Gov. Rick Scott Is Breaking Ranks With the NRA and Trump. No, We Shouldn’t Celebrate Just Yet

By Anne Branigin

The student-led push to finally bring a semblance of gun control appears to be working in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott and other state lawmakers on Friday offered a series of proposals that would mark “the most significant move toward gun control in Florida in decades.”

The proposed gun laws defy the National Rifle Association and President Donald Trump, who have suggested arming educators as a way to fight the epidemic of school shootings, the New York Times reports.

According to NBC News, Scott explicitly said that he disagrees with arming school teachers.

“My focus is on bringing in law enforcement,” Scott said. “I think you need to have individuals who are trained, well trained.”

Scott’s plan includes the following:

  • Raising the minimum age to buy any firearm from 18 to 21 (currently, 18-year-olds can purchase semi-automatic rifles but not handguns);
  • Outlawing bump stocks, a kind of modification that allows gun users to fire their weapons faster;
  • Requiring more safety and mental health training for school personnel;
  • Establishing improved processes for authorities to share information about potential at-risk students and security threats;
  • Increasing law enforcement presence in schools;
  • Making it more difficult for individuals with mental health issues to access weapons.

The Times reports that other Florida lawmakers have proposed creating a “marshal” program that would let teachers who have enough hours of training with law enforcement to carry a weapon on campus.

The proposals do stop short of the sort of gun reform that student-activists have been pleading for, which includes a ban on the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

“Banning specific weapons is not going to fix this,” said Scott, a man who proposed banning a specific modification because he believed that would “fix” things.

Some of the proposals put forward by the governor are concerning for other reasons.

As many mental health advocates have noted, most gun violence is not attributable to mental illness. “Mental health professionals welcome more resources and attention,” as noted in a recent PBS article, “but they say the administration is ignoring the real problem”—that of easy access to guns.

American Medical Association President David Barbe also emphasized this in his interview with PBS, saying that improved access to mental health care was important, but “to blame this all just on mental illness is not sufficient.”

The proposed laws also place a heavy emphasis on putting more law enforcement inside schools. Gov. Scott requested $500 million to implement mental health and school-safety programs and to ensure that each Florida public school had at least one armed officer for every 1,000 students.

But the recent example of the Florida deputy who failed to respond to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School should reveal the limitations of this plan. In addition, the disproportionate policing and punishment of students of color by school police means that Florida schools could actually become more dangerous places for black students.

So what sorts of gun reform should be on the table?

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been barred from researching gun violence since the mid-1990s, there is some data suggesting that certain policies are more effective than others. According to Scientific American, these include:

  • requiring a permit to purchase a firearm that must be applied for, in person, at a local law enforcement agency
  • banning individuals convicted of any violent crime from gun purchase
  • making all domestic violence offenders surrender their guns
  • temporarily banning active alcohol abusers from owning firearms

As for an assault weapons ban, the New York Times writes that Florida Senate Democrats have promised to amend any GOP gun bill with the addition of an assault weapon ban, but since they’re outnumbered in both chambers of the state Legislature, those measures would be unlikely to pass.

Anne Branigin is a News Fellow with The Root.

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