Less than a month after a massacre at a Florida high school left 17 people dead and many others maimed and injured, Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott on Friday signed a bill that will allow for school personnel to carry loaded guns on school grounds to act as armed guards—proving once more the steady hold the NRA, and the gun industry more broadly, retains on the nation's legislative bodies.
"Parents, teachers, and students oppose the insane idea that putting guns in our schools can keep our kids safe," declared Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the pro-gun control group founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
"Even Governor Scott, a man who's done the NRA's bidding for his entire tenure as governor, opposes guns in schools," Ambler continued. "So why would such dangerous proposal end up in a package that's meant to protect kids from gun violence? The answer is obvious: it's the gun lobby. The gun lobby might be bankrupt when it comes to solutions for gun safety, but they still need a talking point for their talking heads."
While a full two-thirds of Americans now say they support a complete ban on assault weapons, Florida's new restrictions on guns sales include relatively mild reforms, such as an increase of the purchasing age from 18 to 21 on some guns, a new three-day wait period for other purchases, and the banning of bump-stocks.
As Clio Chang lamented at Splinter News, "While the limitations on guns are a positive step, it's distinctly American that the cost of those restrictions is allowing school staff to carry guns."
A law that does not ban the kind of assault weapon used in the massacre but allows for the entry of even more guns onto school grounds, said Rev. William Barber II, is proof of a great moral failing:
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In response to a moral movement to keep children safe, FL governor signed a bill that puts more guns in schools but does nothing to ban assault weapons. We must march to the polls & change who holds power so we can change policies.— Rev. Dr. Barber (@RevDrBarber) March 10, 2018
Student survivors of last month's mass shooting—who have done more to pressure lawmakers than any other group in recent weeks—recognized that while the reform bill can be viewed as progress, it remains a flimsy kind of advance:
But don't be fooled the first chance they get they can and they will try making more lax gun laws to bow to the NRA #neveragain— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) March 9, 2018
Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, urged the state's school boards "not to accept the Legislature's dangerous invitation to introduce more guns into Florida schools and classrooms or to further criminalize our students."
While he acknowledged some of the measures in the law were laudable efforts at reform—such as new resources for mental health care among students—he warned the practical effect of allowing school personnel to carry guns with the idea they would be able to confront "a shooter armed with a military-style automatic weapon with a high-capacity magazine" will only mean that more teachers and students will be ultimately be killed.
"We hope that Florida superintendents and school boards know better than to introduce more weapons in a space that needs fewer and to turn our children's schools into fortress prisons," Simon added. "The solution to gun violence is not the introduction of more guns."
Meanwhile, of course, the NRA moved swiftly after the law's passage on Friday to file a lawsuit against it.