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Florida passes new gun legislation, votes down assault weapons ban

By Daniel Uria
Florida passes new gun legislation, votes down assault weapons ban
Florida's Senate passed a bill imposing new restrictions on gun purchases, while voting down several amendments from Democratic senators to ban assault weapons and remove a program allowing some teachers to carry firearms. Photo by Gary Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Florida's Senate approved a bill Monday imposing new restrictions on gun purchases, but voted down an assault weapon ban and other measures.

The bill -- which requires a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases, increases the age limit for buying a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21, bans the sale of bump stocks and makes it easier for law enforcement to take firearms from a potential threat -- was approved by a vote of 9 to 4.

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The bill will also establish a committee to investigate the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which killed 17 people.

"Nothing we will do in the state Legislature will fill the void created in the families of the victims, their school, or their community," state Senate President Joe Negron said. "However, this comprehensive legislation will honor their memory by helping to ensure every community across the state has the resources needed to identify and treat those suffering from mental illness, to improve the safety and security of local schools, and to ensure those suffering from mental illness do not have access to firearms."

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Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami noted the bill's age limit for purchasing semi-automatic weapons doesn't apply to private sales, noting such weapons would still be available to people the same age as 19-year-old shooter Nikolas Cruz.

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"A 19-year-old could still buy a semi-automatic weapon from a private dealer and a 19-year-old could still possess a semi-automatic weapon," Rodriguez said.

Senators rejected about a half-dozen amendments from Democrats to include additional restrictions, such as a ban on assault weapon sales, which was rejected by a vote of 7 to 6.

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National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer was booed by the crowd, which included gun control activists and Douglas students, as she spoke against the ban.

"The devil's in the details," she said. "Under this definition, I would be hard-pressed to find a weapon it didn't ban."

Rodriguez, who sponsored the amendment, said the ban specifically focused on "weapons of war."

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"This is not about banning all guns," said Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami. "This is not about self-defense in the home; this is not about hunting. This is about weapons of war."

Sen. Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens voted against the final bill after senators voted down his amendment removing the institution of the "Florida Sheriff's Marshal Program."

Under the program, teachers and administrators who elect to complete a background check, psychological exam, drug screening and 132 hours of training would be allowed to carry firearms in school.

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"What we're doing with this -- arming teachers -- is just a step too far," Braynon said. "I cannot support any bill that puts guns in the hands of people who are supposed to be educating our children."

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