Florida governor calls for gun ban for mentally ill, buyers under 21

By Sara Shayanian  |  Feb. 23, 2018 at 1:44 PM
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Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday called for a $500 million school safety plan that would keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill and underage buyers.

Scott proposed barring anyone under the age of 21 from buying a firearm or receiving a gun as a gift. He proposed creating the Violent Threat Restraining Order, which would allow police to remove firearms from those deemed mentally ill.

"This will allow a court to prohibit a violent or mentally ill person from purchasing or possessing a firearm or any other weapon when either a family member, community welfare expert or law enforcement officer files a sworn request and presents evidence to the court of a threat of violence involving firearms or other weapons," Scott said.

The Florida Republican said $450 million in his action plan would go toward keeping students safer.

"I am proposing at least one law enforcement officer for every 1,000 students. This must be implemented by the start of the 2018 school year," Scott said. "We will also provide sheriff's departments the authority to train additional school personnel or reserve law enforcement officers to protect students if requested by the local school board."

School "hardening" measures would be implemented to address specific safety needs in schools, including metal detectors, bullet-proof glass, steel doors and upgraded locks.

Scott noted warning signs that could have helped prevent the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people.

The accused gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, had a troubled history that included 39 visits from police and expulsion from school. The FBI has said two tips were reported about Cruz, but not acted on.

Scott's plan also calls for an anonymous tip line, called "See Something, Say Something," to be established for anyone to report suspicious activity.

The other $50 million would go toward funding mental health initiatives, the governor said.

"I do know that some are going to accuse me of unfairly stigmatizing those who struggle with mental illness. I reject that," Scott said. "I am not asking them to wear a scarlet letter, nor am I unsympathetic to their plight. I have a family member who has dealt with these issues. It is hard on them and it is hard on the family."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., argued that Scott's plan "doesn't do one thing to ensure comprehensive criminal background checks or ban assault rifles."

"His leadership is weak and by recommending raising the age to 21 he is doing the bare minimum. Enough is enough," Nelson said.

Florida lawmakers are also pushing for a different direction than Scott's plan -- particularly Republican leaders who say they will impose a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases and propose a program to arm teachers and school administrators.

The governor's plan does not call for arming teachers as President Donald Trump has supported -- and his proposal does not include banning AR-15s, the weapon used in the Florida shooting.

Any changes must be approved by the Florida legislature during its current session, which ends March 9.

"None of the plans I'm announcing today will bring any of [the dead] back, but it's important to remember them," Scott said. "The 17 lives that were cut short and all the hopes and dreams that were ruined have changed our state forever.

"Florida will never be the same."

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