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Florida Senate passes bill that raises purchasing age for guns to 21

Bill also allows for armed librarians and coaches
Posted at 3:31 PM, Mar 05, 2018

The Florida Senate on Monday passed Senate Bill 7026, The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act — a bill that raises the minimum purchasing age for a firearm to 21 and sets a program that allows for armed librarians, coaches and counselors.

The bill now moves to the Florida House. It's not immediately clear when the House will take up the measure.

The legislation works to address the issues presented by the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, including firearm and school safety, and community mental health resources. 

The bill includes the following provisions:

Mental Health
In the area of mental health the legislation makes significant changes to keep firearms out of the hands of those suffering from mental illness:

  • Authorizes a law enforcement officer who is taking a person into custody for an involuntary examination under the Baker Act to seize and hold a firearm or ammunition from the person for 24 hours after the person is released and does not have a risk protection order against them or is the subject of a firearm disability.
  • Prohibits a person who has been adjudicated mentally defective or who has been committed to a mental institution from owning or possessing a firearm until a court orders otherwise.
  • Creates a process for a law enforcement officer or law enforcement agency to petition a court for a risk protection order to temporarily prevent persons who are at high risk of harming themselves or others from accessing firearms when a person poses a significant danger to himself or herself or others, including significant danger as a result of a mental health crisis or violent behavior. The bill also:
  • Allows a court to issue a risk protection order for up to 12 months. 
  • Requires the surrender of all firearms and ammunition if a risk protection order is issued.
  • Provides a process for a risk protection order to be vacated or extended.

Firearm Safety

  • The legislation also provides new provisions to ensure full and complete background checks when a firearm is purchased:
  • Requires a three-day waiting period for all firearms, not just handguns or until the background check is completed, whichever is later. Provides exceptions for:
  • Concealed weapons permit holders, and
  • For the purchase of firearms other than handguns, an exception for:
  • Individuals who have completed a 16 hour hunter safety course; 
  • Individuals holding a valid Florida hunting license; or
  • Law enforcement officers, correctional officers and service members (military and national guard)

The bill addresses two of the most frequent requests Senators heard from the families of victims simply to raise the age for purchasing a firearm and ban devices that turn a legal firearm into an illegal weapon.  

  • Prohibits a person under 21 years of age from purchasing a firearm, and prohibits licensed firearm dealers, importers, and manufacturers, from selling a firearm, except in the case of a member of the military, or a law enforcement or correctional officer when purchasing a rifle or shotgun. (Persons under 21 years of age are already prohibited from purchasing a handgun under federal law.)
  • Prohibits a bump-fire stock from being imported, transferred, distributed, sold, keeping for sale, offering for sale, possessing, or giving away within the state.

School Safety
The bill improves school safety through the following provisions:

  • Establishes the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission to investigate system failures in the Parkland school shooting and prior mass violence incidents, and develop recommendations for system improvements.
  • Codifies the Office of Safe Schools within the Florida Department of Education (DOE) and which will service as a central repository for the best practices, training standards, and compliance regarding school safety and security.
  • Permits a sheriff to establish a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program. 
  • The legislation allows school districts to decide whether to participate in the guardian program if it is available in their county. 
  • A guardian must complete 132 hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training, pass psychological evaluation, submit to and pass drug tests; and complete certified diversity training. The guardian program is named after Coach Aaron Feis, who lost his life protecting students during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The guardian program is completely voluntary for a sheriff to establish, for a school district to participate, and for an individual to volunteer.  
  • Individuals who exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers are excluded from participating in a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program. However, this limitation does not apply to classroom teachers of a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program; a current service member; and a current or former law enforcement officer.
  • Requires each district school board and school district superintendent to cooperate with law enforcement agencies to assign one or more safe-school officers at each school facility.  The safe-school officer requirement can be satisfied by appointing any combination of a school resource officer, a school safety officer, or a school guardian.
  • Requires each district school board to designate a district school safety specialist to serve as the district’s primary point of public contact for public school safety functions.
  • Requires each school district to designate school safety specialists and a threat assessment team at each school, and requires the team to operate under the district school safety specialist’s direction.
  • Requires the DOE to contract for the development of a Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool which will assist school districts in conducting security assessments to identify threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Creates the mental health assistance allocation to assist school districts in establishing or expanding school-based mental health care.

The legislation also:

  • Prohibits a person from making, posting, or transmitting a threat to conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism. 
  • Requires DCF to contract for community action treatment teams to provider behavioral health and support services.
  • Requires FDLE to procure a mobile app that would allow students and the community to relay information anonymously concerning unsafe, dangerous threats. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglass recommended that the program be named “FortifyFL”  

The legislation appropriates $400 million to implement the bill provisions, including the following: 

  • Over $69 million to the DOE to fund the mental health assistance allocation.
  • $1 million for the design and construction of a memorial honoring those who lost their lives on February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
  • Over $25 million for replacing building 12 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
  • Over $67 million for sheriff’s offices who decide to establish a school guardian program.
  • Over $97 million to aid for the safe schools allocation. 
  • Over $98 million to implement a grant program for improving and hardening the physical security of school buildings.
  • $18.3 million to DCF for additional mobile crisis teams to ensure reasonable access among all counties. 

“The opportunity to meet with and listen to survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting as well as the families of the victims has had a tremendous impact on each and every Senator and has significantly influenced the development of this important legislation,” said Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) who presented Senate Bill 7026 today. “We are listening. The Senate hears you and we are taking the appropriate steps to help ensure that a senseless tragedy like this never happens again.”

“We can never replace the 17 lives that were lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and we can never erase the traumatic experience that lives on in the memories of those who survived this horrific attack. However, we will do everything we can to address the failure of government to effectively address the numerous warning signs that should have identified the perpetrator as a danger to others. We can and we will increase the resources available to identify and treat those suffering from mental illness, improve the safety and security of our schools, and ensure those suffering from mental illness do not have access to firearms,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart).

For more information on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, click here.