Florida’s School Safety Act: Where Are We Now?

Controversial state bill on Governor Scott’s desk

The biggest story of Florida’s legislative session continues as the session is coming to a close. The proposed School Safety Act, which involves provisions to arm volunteer teachers in participating school districts, has passed both the Senate and the House without significant amendment.

The bill will now be delivered to Governor Rick Scott, who will have to decide whether or not he will sign it into law. Scott does have the power to veto the bill, and has expressed concerns about the idea of arming teachers and other school officials.

Scott’s decision will not be immediate. Even with the legislative session wrapping up, as the state continues to work on its budget for the coming year. There are reports that a deal has been reached, but no final work has been given to the governor to sign or veto.

The options in front of Scott are complicated, especially in a year where he will be running for US Senate against incumbent Bill Nelson. It should be noted that the governor can only sign or veto the bill as a whole, without amending or striking anything from it. He can, however, veto specific line items in the state budget. This is a complicated equation, but Governor Scott may potentially use the budget as a way of restricting aspects of the proposed act that he opposes personally, such as the guardian plan.

As a reminder, the bill aims to restrict the sale of rifles from 18 to 21. A plan to arm school officials in participating districts after proper training would be implemented, known as the guardian plan. This would only be with the permission of both the school district and the county sheriff. That is to say, many counties throughout Florida are not going to put that plan in place whether this bill becomes law or not.

The “bump stock” would be outlawed in the state under this bill, which would also clarify the three-day waiting period before buying a firearm, Mental health programs would be implemented in schools.

Despite the bill leaving the door open to arm teachers, a critical part of the NRA’s ideas as to how to better protect schools, the National Rifle Association opposes the bill on the basis of the restrictions it would impose on the sale of firearms. In a tweet, the organization said “Neither the 3-day waiting period on all rifles and shotguns, raising the age from 18 to 21 to buy any firearm, or the bump stock ban will have any effect on crime,” according to the Associated Press.

At the moment, the bill has still not been signed. Governor Scott is still mulling his options. The state awaits his decision, and the next steps down a complicated road that began with a tragedy on February 14.