On the day 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, Gov. Rick Scott stood in front of TV cameras in the school's parking lot and vowed there would be changes to the gun laws of his state.
Three weeks to the day after the shooting, Scott signed into law the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act , a comprehensive bill that includes a provision that raises the age to purchase a gun, bans bump stocks and allows law enforcement, with the approval of a judge, to bar a person deemed dangerous due to mental illness from owning guns for up to a year.
The bill passed in the wake of the school shooting and just short of 21 months after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 dead.
It not only addressed gun ownership for those with mental health issues but also allocated more than $300 million for school safety initiatives.
In the past, Florida has been the target of gun control advocates who claimed the state has weak gun laws.
The Giffords, a gun-control group, founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, (D-Arizona), and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, gave Florida an F rating, saying the state ranked low in part because of a change to its "stand your ground" law which allows citizens to use deadly force without having the requirement to try to retreat if they believe they face "imminent death or great bodily harm." The law changed in 2017 when the burden to prove that a person was immune from prosecution under the "stand your ground" law switched from the defense to the prosecutors.
The law signed by Scott in March made sweeping changes to Florida's gun culture. Here is a look at some of the highlights of the bill.
- Minimum age to purchase a gun: The bill raises the minimum age to purchase a long gun to 21. The minimum age was 18. The federal minimum age to purchase a shotgun or rifle is 18.
- Waiting period: To purchase a gun, you must wait three days or until a background check is completed, whichever is longer. Exceptions to the three-day waiting period include licensed hunters and licensed concealed carriers, police officers and military members.
- Ban bump stocks: Bump stocks, devices that attach to rifles that can make it easier to fire a weapon faster, are banned in the state. The National Rifle Association endorses a national ban on bump stocks.
- Extreme Risk protection order: Law enforcement agencies will be able to petition a court for a temporary order that stops a person from purchasing or possessing firearms. The orders will be sought only when a person demonstrates behaviors that pose a significant danger to themselves or others.
- Baker Act measures: If a law enforcement officer takes a person into custody for an involuntary examination under the Baker Act, the officer may seize and hold a firearm or ammunition in the person's possession and seek the voluntary surrender of other firearms or ammunition kept in the residence. Those seized firearms and that ammunition must be available for return no longer than 24 hours after the person taken into custody can document that he or she is no longer subject to involuntary examination and has been released or discharged from any inpatient or involuntary outpatient treatment provided or ordered.
- Mental competency: The law prohibits a person who has been judged "mentally defective" or who has been committed to a mental institution from owning or possessing a firearm until a court orders otherwise.
- School "guardian" program: Allow school superintendents and country sheriffs to arm school personnel under a voluntary program wherein certain employees — librarians, guidance counselors, and coaches, but not full-time classroom teachers — could be trained and allowed to carry guns on campus.
- Safe-school officer: Requires each district school board and school district superintendent to cooperate with law enforcement agencies to assign one or more safe-school officers at each school facility.
Where in Florida can you carry a gun?
First, open carry is illegal in Florida. Open carry means openly carrying a weapon on your person in public. Here are the places in Florida you can have a gun:
- In vehicles: "It is lawful for a person 18 years of age or older to possess a concealed firearm or other weapon for self-defense or other lawful purposes within the interior of a private vehicle, without a license, if the firearm or other weapon is securely encased or is otherwise not readily accessible for immediate use. Securely encased means in a glove compartment, whether or not locked; snapped in a holster; in a gun case, whether or not locked; in a zippered gun case; or in a closed box or container which requires a lid or cover to be opened for access."
- In state parks: It is legal to carry a weapon in state parks, state or national forests, state game management units and roadside rest areas.
- In restaurants, under certain conditions: You may carry a weapon into a restaurant. If the restaurant serves alcohol in a separate part of the restaurant, you may not take a weapon to that area. You may not take a weapon into a fully licensed bar.
In Florida, a permit to purchase a gun is not required. A permit to carry a handgun is required.
You do not have to register a gun in Florida.
There is no restriction on the size of magazines you may own.
Background checks on private gun sales are not required.
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