Florida governor backs raising age limits on assault rifles

Move stands in defiance of the National Rifle Association
Gov. Rick Scott speaks to reporters after a meeting about how to prevent future mass shootings, in Tallahassee, Fla., Feb. 23.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Gov. Rick Scott speaks to reporters after a meeting about how to prevent future mass shootings, in Tallahassee, Fla., Feb. 23.

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Gov. Rick Scott proposed on Friday the most significant move toward gun control in Florida in decades, in defiance of the National Rifle Association, though some of his ideas fell short of what student advocates are seeking.

The governor, a Republican, backed raising the minimum age to buy any firearm, including semi-automatic rifles, to 21 from 18, a restriction opposed by the NRA. The minimum-age limit already exists for handguns, and it would have prevented Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old shooting suspect, from lawfully purchasing the AR-15 police say he used to massacre 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

Scott also said he would push to ban “bump stocks,” which enable semi-automatic rifles to fire faster, and would ask for $500 million for mental health and school safety programs, including requiring at least one armed police officer for every 1,000 students at public schools.


(Also online: Trump condemns Florida officer who stood idle, but sticks by plan to arm teachers)

“I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who has mental issues to use a gun,” Scott said. “I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who is a danger to themselves or others to use a gun.”

The NRA said Thursday that it opposes the age restriction. President Donald Trump said Friday that he supports it, and Scott said he had not spoken to the NRA about his proposals.

Scott, who is widely expected to run for a U.S. Senate seat this year, also broke with the president and the NRA on allowing educators to carry concealed weapons. Legislation proposed by state lawmakers, however, would allow teachers who have had enough training to qualify as law enforcement officers to be armed on campus.

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

The students who lobbied and protested lawmakers this week in the state Capitol wanted a ban on assault weapons, which was a nonstarter for leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature.

On Friday, top Republicans in the state House and Senate said they would file companion bills on gun policy. They said the legislation would impose a three-day waiting period on all firearm purchases, which now exists only for handguns.

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