Florida House lawmakers reject assault weapons ban again

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Florida House lawmakers again rejected a measure to ban the sale and possession of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines almost two weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The vote in the House Appropriations Committee was mostly along party lines, with only Republican state Rep. Bill Hager joining Democrats to support adding the assault weapons ban amendment to a gun bill making its way through the state Legislature.

The amendment was proposed by Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando. Smith told members that while his amendment was not an "end-all" solution to gun violence, it's a large component of fixing the problem. Smith said the Orlando community was "absolutely ripped apart by gun violence" after 49 people were murdered by a shooter at the gay nightclub Pulse in 2016.

"We know that military-style assault weapons like the ones that are banned in this amendment are weapons of war that were designed for war," Smith says. "They were never designed or intended to be used by civilians, but we see over and over again a distributing trend, which is that as mass shootings are on the rise in this state and in this country, these weapons of war, military-style assault weapons have become the gold standard for mass murderers."

House lawmakers did, though, back a measure that would train teachers
to carry guns in class after training with local law enforcement pending approval from superintendents and school boards. Parkland parents, students and other gun control activists pleaded with legislators not to allow guns in school.

"The FBI, the Broward Sheriff's Office, the school resource officers, you legislators – you all failed me and my little boy," said Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son, Alex Schachter, was killed in the Parkland massacre. "I cannot wait for you to do the right thing and protect the children of this great state."

The House bill also imposes a three-day waiting period for gun purchases and raises the gun-buying age from 18 to 21. The proposal also gives law enforcement greater authority to take guns from people who make violent threats and would spend $400 million to improve school safety and mental health counseling.

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