Exactly three weeks after the tragic shooting in Parkland, Fla., the first substantial school gun violence legislation in years was passed out of the Florida statehouse Wednesday.
As CNN reports, the bill was a compromise struck after 10 days of debate. But the law was not passed without criticism–from those on both sides of the gun control debate.
On Friday afternoon, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law.
The legislation represents the first major attempt at addressing America’s school gun violence problem in the wake of the Parkland tragedy.
The question now is whether federal or other state lawmakers will attempt similar approaches–and what those laws will mean for America’s school districts.
Disarming teenagers, arming staff
The new Florida law includes six measures aimed at reducing access to guns and improving overall school security:
- Raises the minimum gun purchase age to 21 from 18
- Establishes a three-day waiting period for gun purchases
- Bans bump stocks, the firearm add-on which makes semi-automatic weapons function as fully automatic weapons
- Grants law enforcement more power to seize weapons from people deemed a threat or mentally unfit
- Adds funding for school resource officers and mental health support
- Establishes a firearm training and safety program which would arm certain types of teachers and staff.
It’s this last provision–the arming of school staff–that gave Gov. Scott pause before signing, CNN reports. An earlier version of the bill called for training for all teachers, but after pushback from gun control advocates and education leaders, the senate added a provision banning teachers who “exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers” from participating.
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While the Florida law represents a step forward for many, a group of leading education experts say a more comprehensive, “public health” approach to the school violence problem is needed.
Last week, a group of leading education researchers, advocacy groups, and other leaders released a “Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the United States of America,” an eight-point plan for tackling the school gun violence problem, divided into three levels of prevention.
As the plan’s authors write:
“Although security measures are important, a focus on simply preparing for shootings is insufficient. We need a change in mindset and policy from reaction to prevention.”
Moving forward, school districts, state legislators, and federal lawmakers might consider incorporating some or all of these strategies into school security plans.
Level 1: Universal approaches to safety
- A federal requirement that schools assess and maintain a positive and safe school climate
- Federal bans on assault-style weapons, high-capacity ammunition, and bump stocks
Level 2: Strategies for risk reduction and protection for those facing mental health issues
- Support for more adequate mental health services in schools and communities
- School discipline reform strategies that eliminate exclusionary punishment
- Universal background checks for gun purchases
Level 3: Interventions for people at risk of acting violently
- A national program to train and build threat assessment teams combining both mental health and law enforcement experts, as well as better systems for reporting potential threats
- Reducing legal impediments for sharing information about people who have previously been violent or threatened violence between educators, mental health agencies, and law enforcement
- Laws which allow law enforcement officials to temporarily remove firearms for individuals who may be planning violent acts
What steps is your school or district taking to assess safety in the wake of Parkland and other tragedies? What’s your take on the Florida legislation? Tell us in the comments.