Ashley Hunter: Greene Publishing, Inc.
“The Legislature finds there is a need to comprehensively address the crisis of gun violence, including but not limited to, gun violence on school campuses,” reads the text of Senate Bill 7026.
After the heartbreaking shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the state of Florida, mirroring the rest of the nation, has been torn between whether more gun laws are required, or if the current gun laws restricted response to the shooting.
In response to citizen’s outcry to re-examine Florida’s gun laws, the Florida Senate convened on Saturday, March 3 to vote on SB 7026. The bill went through multiple changes from both parties and was voted on nine times Saturday before the Senate placed the bill on the agenda for Monday March 5, to be read a third time.
On Monday, March 5, the Florida State Senate narrowly approved, with a vote of 20-18, the final edition of Senate Bill 7026. The bill now moves on to the Florida House of Representatives.
The bill, if passed by the House, would approve arming school staff within Florida districts, but only at the discretion of local Sheriffs.
“Sheriffs, in their respective counties, in person or by deputy, shall establish, if the sheriff so chooses, a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program to aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises,” the bill reads. The program, named after a Marjory Stoneman Douglas coach who sacrificed his life in order to protect students during the shooting on Wednesday Feb. 14, would allow county sheriffs the choice of arming and training school staff how to respond and prevent an active shooter scenario.
What the bill does exclude, however, is classroom teachers.
“Excluded from participating in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program are individuals who exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers,” adds the document. Under this addition, classroom teachers might be excluded, but librarians, principals, custodians, counselors and other school “support staff” would be allowed to enter the program.
Becoming certified under the Coach Aaron Feis Guardianship Program will be no easy feat. In order to be allowed entry, individuals who would volunteer for the program would have to hold a valid license, complete 132 hours of comprehensive firearm safety (which includes 80 hours of firearm instruction, 16 hours of precision pistol training, eight hours of discretionary shooting instructor via simulation, eight hours of defensive tactics and 12 hours of instruction regarding legal issues). They must also pass a psychological examination, submit and pass a drug test and successfully complete at least 12 hours under a nationally recognized diversity training program.
This portion of the document also acknowledged that a retired law enforcement officer might be hired as a School Resource Officer.
The second part of the document is one that, if passed and approved by the house, will undoubtedly create a stir amongst the firearm communities. Currently, in Florida, the legal age to purchase a firearm is 18. Should SB7026 be passed, as is, the legal age to purchase a firearm would be lifted to 21 years of age.
This ruling would not apply to law enforcement, correctional officers or service members.
“A person younger than 21 years of age may not purchase a firearm. The sale or transfer of a firearm to a person younger than 21 years of age may not be made or facilitated by a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or a licensed dealer,” the document reads. “A person who violates this subsection commits of a felony of the third degree.”
Directly after, the bill also implements a mandatory three-day waiting period between the purchase and delivery of any firearm. Individuals and scenarios excluded from this waiting period are when the firearm is purchased by a holder of a concealed weapons permit, when the firearm is being purchased by a law enforcement officer, when the firearm is part of a trade-in for another firearm or the purchase of a rifle /shotgun after the purchaser has completed a minimum 16-hour hunter safety course. A person who is exempt from having to complete the Hunter Safety course is also exempt from the mandatory waiting period.
Should this bill pass, bump-fire stocks will also be prohibited in the state of Florida. The import, transfer, distribution, sale or possession of bump-fire stocks will be prohibited under threat of a felony of the third degree.
Inside the bill, a bump-fire stock is defined as any conversion kit, tool or accessory that alters the rate of fire to mimic an automatic weapon.
The House of Representatives viewed the bill on Monday, March 5 before moving it to be placed on the Special Order Calendar for March 6. As of press date, there was no update on the status of the bill.
District 3’s Senator Bill Montford voted in favor of this bill.