Florida’s governor expected to sign school safety bill

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Florida’s governor expected to sign school safety bill
Florida’s governor expected to sign school safety bill

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected to meet Friday with families of the 17 people killed in a school shooting and sign a $400 million school safety bill with new gun controls opposed by the NRA and a plan to arm staff that teachers don’t want.

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz – a Democrat who represents the South Florida district where the shooting happened – said in a text that Scott will sign the bill Friday. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the same.

“The community’s demanding action; they want something done,” Rubio said on CBS television. “I believe he’ll sign it today.”

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old former student accused of opening fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 made his initial appearance before a judge on 17 attempted murder charges added this week by the grand jury. In the brief hearing Friday, Nikolas Cruz stood with his head bowed as he appeared via video conference. He is also charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder.

Cruz’s public defender withdrew an initial not guilty plea, leaving him to “stand mute” for now, but has said he will plead guilty if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table and sentence him to life in prison instead. Prosecutors have not announced a decision.

But all of Friday’s focus was on the Florida Legislature, which delivered the school safety bill to Scott on Thursday. The bill narrowly passed the House and Senate, and falls short of what he wanted and what survivors of the massacre demanded. Florida’s teachers union and the National Rifle Association are opposed.

The measure would raise the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21, extend a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns and ban bump stocks that allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire.

In schools, it would create a “guardian” program enabling staff with law enforcement training and school district approval to carry concealed handguns on campus. It would create new mental health programs for schools and establish an anonymous tip line where students and others could report threats. It also seeks to improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state agencies.

The NRA opposes raising age limits to buy weapons or imposing new waiting periods. In a statement Thursday, NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer called the bill “a display of bullying and coercion” that would violate Second Amendment rights and punish law-abiding citizens.

Teachers, meanwhile, called on Scott to use his line-item veto power to zero out the $67 million set aside for the program to train and arm school employees. The Florida Education Association sent a letter to Scott on Thursday saying only trained law enforcement officers should have guns in schools.

The Republican governor, who is expected to seek a U.S. Senate seat later this year, has called for raising the minimum age to purchase any type of gun and said he does not support arming teachers. Instead, he wanted lawmakers to adopt his own $500 million proposal to put at least one law enforcement officer in every school.

The governor has 15 days to sign the measure, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican and one of the main sponsors of the legislation, says he expects Scott will sign it.

“The bill is far too comprehensive for the governor to let a few provisions prevent the positive changes this bill embodies,” Galvano said.

President Donald Trump congratulated Florida lawmakers, saying they “passed a lot of very good legislation.” Trump also said the White House is working on a plan to ban bump stocks and efforts to enhance background checks were “moving along well” in Congress.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killed, said more needs to be done, but there’s enough good in the bill that it should become law.

“My precious daughter Meadow’s life was taken, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. But make no mistake: I’m a father, and I’m on a mission. I’m on a mission to make sure I’m the last dad to ever read a statement of this kind.”

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Associated Press writers Terry Spencer, Jennifer Kay and Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami contributed to this report.

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Follow the AP’s complete coverage of the Florida school shooting here: https://apnews.com/tag/Floridaschoolshooting .

FILE – This Feb. 19, 2018 file photo shows Denyse Christian, hugging her son Adin Christian, 16, a student at the school, at a makeshift memorial outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. Parkland city’s historian Jeff Schwartz is setting a plan in motion to collect, archive and preserve the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mementos. Meanwhile, school administrators have vowed to build a memorial after the demolition of the building where the Feb. 14 attack took place. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Rep. Jose Oliva, R- Miami Lakes, is hugged and congratulated by House members as the gun and school safety bill passed the Florida House 67-50 in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Oliva shepherd the bill through the House. (Scott Keeler/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
Andrew Pollack, father of 18 year-old school shooting victim Meadow Pollack, stands to applause in the Florida House gallery after the school safety bill passed the House 67-50 at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, March 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
Rep. Jose Oliva, R- Miami Lakes, front, and other members of the Florida House, applaud Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School parent Andrew Pollack, who’s daughter, Meadow Pollack, was killed in the school shooting, in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Oliva shepherd the bill through the House. (Scott Keeler/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
This Feb. 19, 2018 file photo shows a makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. Parkland city’s historian Jeff Schwartz is setting a plan in motion to collect, archive and preserve the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mementos. Meanwhile, school administrators have vowed to build a memorial after the demolition of the building where the Feb. 14 attack took place. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
FILE – In this Feb. 14, 2018 file photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooter opened fire on the campus. Emergency calls from parents and students during the Florida high school massacre show 911 operators at first trying to grasp the enormity of the emergency and then calmly trying to gather information to assist arriving law enforcement officers. The officers arrive to find chaos as delays allowed the shooter to flee. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File)
Meghan Petty, the sister of 14-year-old Alaina who lost her life during the recent attack in Florida, speaks to reporters during a press conference to discuss H.C.R. 22, which designates April as a month of kindness for the state of Utah and honors the lives of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Thursday, March 8, 2018, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. The family of the teenage girl killed in the massacre said Utah lawmakers’ move to designate a month of kindness will help keep survivors’ vow that the shooting in Parkland will be different. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Meghan Petty is comforted by her father Ryan Petty during a press conference to discuss H.C.R. 22, which designates April as a month of kindness for the state of Utah and honors the lives of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Thursday, March 8, 2018, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. The family of a teenage girl killed in the massacre said Utah lawmakers’ move to designate a month of kindness will help keep survivors’ vow that the shooting in Parkland will be different. Petty’s 14-year-old daughter Alaina died in the Feb. 14 shooting that claimed 17 lives. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, right, speaks at a press conference while Meghan Petty, center, and her father Ryan Petty, family members of 14-year-old Alaina who lost her life during the recent school shooting in Florida, look on at the Utah State Capitol Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Salt Lake City. The family of the teenage girl killed in a massacre at her Florida high school said Utah lawmakers’ move to designate a month of kindness will help keep survivors’ vow that the shooting in Parkland will be different. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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