NRA Takes Florida to Court Over New School Safety Bill


Well it did not take long for the National Rifle Association to set their sights on attempting to overturn Florida’s new school safety law. Just hours after Gov. Rick Scott signed the new bill into law the NRA went to court in attempt to block it from going into law.

“We filed a lawsuit against the state for violating the constitutional rights of 18- to 21-year-olds,” said Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the NRA in Florida. NRA lawyers in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., were working on the complaint Friday afternoon, and filed the complaint moments before the court’s deadline.

Hammer had previously called the legislation “political eye-wash.”

“I’m an NRA member, and I was an NRA member when I became governor. I’m going to be an NRA member when I’m not governor,” Scott said at the bill signing. “I’m sure there are NRA members that agree with this bill, some that don’t agree with this bill.

The lawsuit names Attorney General Pam Bondi and Rick Swearingen, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Scott’s office said he was reviewing the lawsuit.

The bill Scott signed on Friday night was a far-reaching school-safety bill that places new restrictions on guns in the aftermath of a deadly school shooting. It was the first time Scott and many Florida lawmakers have stood up to the NRA and taken positions that are counter to the organization’s powerful lobbying group.  

For Scott who has been given an A+ rating from the NRA it was a strong break. But as he signed the bill into law Friday he was flanked by family members of the 17 people killed in the shooting just over three weeks ago, the GOP governor said the bill balances “our individual rights with need for public safety.”

“It’s an example to the entire country that government can and has moved fast,” said Scott, whose state has been ruled for 20 years by gun-friendly Republican lawmakers.

Scott was backed up byTony Montalto, whose daughter Gina was killed in the shooting, read a statement from victims’ families: “When it comes to preventing future acts of horrific school violence, this is the beginning of the journey. We have paid a terrible price for this progress.”

 While the law crafted by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott fell far short of an all – out ban on assault-style weapons sought by survivors. The gunman who opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School used such a weapon, an AR-15 rifle.

The key points of the new law that Gov. Scott and the families agreed on were the things that the NRA are taking the state to court on.

The new law raises the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21, extends a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns. It follows something that President Donald Trump supports and that is the banning of bans bump stocks, which allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire like was used by the shooter in the Las Vegas mass killing.

Lastly, it creates a so-called guardian program enabling some teachers and other school employees to carry guns.

While the NRA clearly sees the law as a violation of 18-21 year old’s Second Amendment rights that is not how the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School see the law.

To them it marked a major victory for the teens who lived through the attack and swiftly became the public faces of a renewed gun-control movement. Just days after the shooting, they began holding rallies, lobbying lawmakers and harnessing the power of social media in support of reform.

Meanwhile, Gov. Scott responded to the students: “You helped change our state. You made a difference. You should be proud.”

At the same time Scott said he is a member of the NRA and will remain part of the organization. As to the most controversial part of the new law he is “not persuaded” about the guardian program that will let districts authorize staff members to carry handguns if they complete law enforcement training. It is not mandatory.

“If counties don’t want to do this, they can simply say no,” he said.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died, called the new law “a start for us.”

His teenage son Hunter added: “Let’s get the rest of the country to follow our lead and let’s make schools safe. Let’s harden the schools and make sure this never happens again.”

 QUOTES USED IN THIS STORY CAME FROM ASSOCIATED PRESS. THE VIDEO FROM CBS NEWS. 

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Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved with Berman Concerts and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.