Gov. Rick Scott announces new gun, school security measures

By Digital Media Team and Brittany Jones, Spectrum News Team Coverage
Last Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018, 8:30 PM EST

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced "major changes" Friday aimed at tightnening rules and keeping students safer on school campuses. 

The $500-million, three-prong plan is intended to try to prevent more mass shootings and school attacks. The plan involves gun laws, school safety and mental health, Scott said in a speech delivered during a news conference.

"I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who has mental issues to be able to use a gun," he said.

"Some will say it's too much, and some will say it's not enough. I respect everyone's opinion, and I don't ridicule those who disagree with me," Scott added.

The announcement comes nine days after 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The gunman, Nikolas Cruz — a 19-year-old former Douglas student — is charged in the deaths. He had a history of mental illness and depression, and his behavior had been reported to authorities on numerous occasions, authorities have acknowledged. 

During a news conference within minutes of the governor's, state House and Senate leaders unveiled their own plan, which includes some differences.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Thursday that his chamber will recommend creating a special commission to investigate the "abject breakdown at all levels" that led to the shooting deaths.

Gun laws

Scott announced the creation of what he called the "Violent Threat Restraining Order." He wants to ban bump stocks and, with exceptions for military and law enforcement, raise the minimum age to buy a gun to 21. Right now, people can buy an assault weapon when they turn 18.

Other key points include:

  • A violent or mentally ill person would be banned from purchasing or possessing a firearm or weapon when a family member, "community welfare expert" or law enforcement officer files a sworn request and presents evidence to a court of a violent threat.
  • Restrictions would be tightened on buying and possessing guns by mentally ill people under the Baker Act.
  • A person with an injunction against stalking, cyberstalking, dating violence, repeat violence, sexual violence, or domestic violence would be prohibited from possessing or buying a firearm.

School safety

The governor is calling for a law enforcement officer mandatory at every public school who are sworn sheriff’s deputies or police officers, and they must be present during all hours students are on campus. He wants one law enforcement officer per 1,000 students. This must be implemented by the start of the 2018 school year.

Other initiatives:

  • Scott wants to budget $450 million for this plan.
  • Active shooter training as outlined by the Department of Homeland Security would be mandatory.
  • Funding would be increased for measures such as metal detectors, bullet-proof glass, steel doors and upgraded locks.
  • There would also be so-called "threat assessment" teams involving teachers, principals and state child welfare staffers. The goal would be to identify students who show signs of mental instability.

Mental health

Scott wants to allocate $50 million in additional funding for mental health initiatives such as counseling, crisis management and other critical mental health services.


  • Sheriff's Offices will have a Department of Children and Familiies case manager embedded in their department to solely work as a crisis welfare worker for repeat cases.
  • More grants would allow sheriffs to establish special teams to coordinate with DCF case managers.

"We are all elected to come to Tallahassee to represent the best interests of Floridians," Scott said. "And today, there is nothing more important than to do all we can to make sure a horrific and evil act like the Parkland shooting never happens again."

Reactions from lawmakers

During a response from members of the state House and Senate, Corcoran added that making sure a mass shooting at a school never happens again was the top priority. 

"What we know is we have experienced an unthinkable tragedy," Corcoran said. "And so, our (government) job is to lead...the number one thing that we are here for and exist for is to protect our people and keep them safe."

Among the differences between the state Legislature's plan and Scott's: The plan spelled out by Corcoran calls for a three-day waiting period to buy a gun. Also, school personnel -- including teachers -- could carry guns on campus if they've taken enough training that would qualify them to be a law-enforcement officer. The Legislature also would empanel a fact-finding commission focused on why Parkland was allowed to happen.

A commission isn't part of Scott's plan. His administration has come under fire for closing its investigation into the gunman, Cruz, who had been flagged as a potential threat.

"It's our goal as a legislature to make sure that our schools are as safe as they can be," said Republican Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart.

But "they've completely ignored the major message of this week, which is that Floridians want a ban on assault weapons," Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando countered.

Sen. Bill Nelson said more still needs to be done.

"Instead of listening to students & parents, Gov. Scott’s plan bows to the NRA’s demands," the Democratic senator said. "It does not expand criminal background checks or ban assault rifles, such as the AR-15. Raising the age to 21 is the bare minimum. We need to get these assault rifles off our streets."

Lawmakers plan to get started to pass a final gun violence prevention package next week. There are two weeks left in the 2018 legislative session.

Reactions from community

Gov. Scott made his case loud and clear to Floridians like George Munson, a gun safety instructor and former officer. He said he agrees with the governor after 17 lost in Parkland.  

“I don't see any reason for children to lose their lives going to school,” said George Munson, a former officer and gun safety instructor.

He told Spectrum News 13 that Gov. Scott is calling for good changes to the books — from banning bump stocks that are used to fire a weapon rapidly, to keeping the mentally ill away from guns, where families can obtain a restraining order to help.

“They shouldn't be able to get a gun at all and that should be allowed in their record to stop the purchase of firearms,” Munson said.

He also agreed with Gov. Scott's request to put a deputy and officers at every school across the state.

Munson said anyone who will have a gun on campus will need some rigorous training.

“I hope it works out for the betterment of all and our entire society throughout the country,” he said. “It’s just a matter of don't talk about it now, let's do it.”

As for raising the age to purchase a gun to 21, he said he agrees as long as it doesn't interfere with sports like hunting that teens normally participate in as he did as a kid.