Never Again: Florida Gun Laws After the Parkland Shooting
Of all the states expected to act, Florida has certainly seen the most scrutiny seeing as the actual shooting took place there. However, despite protests and support from the Florida governor, Florida lawmakers recently rejected a law to ban assault rifles. To be more accurate, Florida passed the law for 15 minutes before calling for a roll call vote in which several representatives got cold feet when they realized they would be recorded as supporting the law. This led to a reversal of position on the banned. However, Florida’s newly passed laws do take several steps in changing how guns can be owned and sold in Florida.
New Florida law has extended the usual waiting periods on handguns to all firearms and required a complete background check before the waiting period can end regardless of how long it takes. There is an exception to this rule for law enforcement officers, members of the military, those with concealed carry permits, and those who have completed a 16-hour hunter safety course.
The new law also raised the minimum ownership age for rifles and shotguns to 21 years old as well as bans use, possession, and sale of bump stocks (an accessory which can turn a gun from semi-automatic to fully automatic).
The law also makes a Public Safety Commission to make recommendations on school safety, creates a safety officer for each district and school, provides funds for mental health treatment, and a few other logistic steps to help with safety.
The most publicized of these steps has likely been Florida’s new marshal program, which allows teachers to undergo training to carry a gun and apparently respond to active shooter situations. This approach has been a common suggestion recently, but frankly has many issues that make implementation problematic.
There are logistical problems such as the increased insurance costs that will certainly be associated with having armed teachers. What’s more, it is likely a matter of time before a teacher makes a judgment call to shoot a student and the school will be left to decide whether they made the right decision or overreacted.
This is even more problematic in Florida as the stand your ground laws would allow an armed teacher to avoid liability for shooting any student they believe poses a serious threat to cause death or grievous bodily harm–active shooter or no.
Even beyond these complications, the idea of arming teachers and requiring them to fight off an active shooter is questionable at its core. The armed deputy sheriff on duty during Parkland chose not to go in and confront Cruz, is it reasonable to ask that of a teacher we already don’t give enough funding for school supplies?
Not only have some of the laws that were passed by Florida enough to raise an eyebrow or two, the things they chose not to pass also bear mentioning. The Florida Senate rejected dozens of proposed changes including: allowing police to seize weapons from somebody under a domestic violence injunction, gun registry rules, allowing local governments to pass stronger gun laws than the state, background checks for out of state gun purchases, banning large capacity magazines, requiring trigger locks and lockboxes for guns, mental health examinations for a concealed carry permit, assault rifle bans around schools, and many more.
What Have Other States Done in Response to Parkland?
While Florida’s changes have certainly received the most media attention, Parkland has inspired changes in gun law across the nation. Here are just some of the moves made in the last month.
In Michigan, lawmakers have been considering provisions such as arming teachers and confiscating guns from people suffering from mental illness. California has proposed 10 different gun control laws including background checks on parts used to assemble assault rifles, create an Armed Prohibited Persons list for those who may be a danger to themselves or others, a law which takes guns from those hospitalized for suicide attempts twice in one year, and more.
Oregon is one of the few states who have already taken concrete action by barring those convicted of stalking and domestic violence (as well as those under restraining orders) from buying or owning guns or ammunition. Rhode Island’s Governor signed an executive order taking guns from those who pose a danger to themselves or others.
In Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott changed positions on gun laws after initially saying that he felt there was no need for change after Parkland. A recent near miss where a student was caught planning a school shooting has led the Republican governor to start considering new legislation.
Vermont is considering several new measures and their Senate Judiciary Committee has already passed a bill allowing law enforcement to remove guns from people considered at extreme risk of harming themselves or others. Illinois and a few other states are considering similar moves.
Other states, such as Ohio, are still considering how to move forward. Indiana has made moves in the opposite direction since Parkland, removing restrictions on gun ownership in the last few weeks. Kansas is thinking about lowering the age restriction on concealed carry permits from 21 to 18, a measure which would have allowed the Parkland shooter himself to get a concealed carry permit.
South Dakota has decided to go the route of outright allowing guns on school grounds and churches as a so called “self-defense” measure. They are also considering doing away with the concealed carry permit altogether and just allowing any gun owner to carry a gun however they like.
Texas has taken an informational route, ordering that safety information be distributed to all schools as well as planning safety audits for Texas schools requiring clear emergency plans.
What Can We Do?
Parkland has led to a flurry of activity at all level of government when it comes to guns and gun control. The approach has been wildly different from state to state and even at a federal level. The truth is Parkland has shocked the nation, but it is one of many mass shootings just like it across the nation–with almost one mass shooting a day in the U.S. this year. The conversation on how to best deal with this will continue, however there is still a lot of discussion to be had if we want to find a true solution.
Jonathan Lurie is a Founding Partner of The Law Offices of Lurie and Ferri (Contact Info). He primarily handles business law, employment law, and intellectual property issues, but works with all types of civil matters. He is a Vice-Chair of the Sports and Entertainment Interest Group of the California Intellectual Property Section and has won awards for his knowledge of intellectual property, start-up business issues, and California civil procedure.