Tallahassee Leaders Talk Gun Control, Mental Health Solutions as Students Arrive at Capitol


More than 100 students who were on campus during last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead arrived in Tallahassee Tuesday night.

They plan to meet privately with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers Wednesday to lobby for stricter gun control. They will also hold an hour-long protest on the steps of the state Capitol at noon.

All this despite the Florida House voting down a measure to consider a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles and high-capacity magazines Tuesday evening shortly before students arrived. The accused gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle at last week’s shooting.

Multiple bills involving access to guns, such as allowing certain school teachers to carry firearms on campus or allowing people to conceal carry in churches, have been filed during this legislative session.

But student activists still hope to force state lawmakers to take up the issue of guns and mental health.

Gov. Scott hosted a series of workshops Tuesday aiming to come up with solutions to prevent future school massacres.

He met with law enforcement, behavioral health and education leaders from across the state.

Among some of the solutions discussed at the law enforcement workshop were arming school employees, expanding background checks and revamping the Baker Act law to keep guns from people experiencing mental-health issues.

At the Florida Department of Children and Families workshop, experts went deeper into mental health issues. They spoke about health screenings to identify people who may turn to violence, the limits to treatment, including access to affordability, and the issue of sharing medical information when it relates to patient confidentiality.

Solutions that arose from speaking with experts during the Florida Department of Education workshop included school safety, security protocols and emergency plans.

Meanwhile, Republican State Sen. Dennis Baxley withdrew his bill over the weekend that would have allowed designated people to carry concealed guns while on school grounds.

State Sen. Dennis Baxley: “I really don’t want to have a gun policy fight right now. I want to solve some problems for this very vulnerable population.”

“I think on reflection we weren’t ready for this conversation,” Baxley told WUFT News. “I really don’t want to have a gun policy fight right now. I want to solve some problems for this very vulnerable population.”

Brandon Abzug is one of the Stoneman Douglas student survivors who has already met with state legislators.

He spent eight hours talking with lawmakers on Monday to discuss three main points.

“Assault weapons and military style weapons should be banned. Another agency should be made just to combat this problem and to work and cooperate with FBI and local authorities,” Abzug said. “And then the third is counselors at schools.”

With the inability to introduce new bills for the 2018 legislative session, lawmakers have until March 9 to pass any legislation on the matter.

About Ramsey Touchberry

Ramsey is a reporter for WUFT who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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One comment

  1. F.D. Stephenson, LCSW, BCD

    Sen. Dennis Baxley, author of Fla’s “Stand Your Ground” laws, gives legal protections to people who use deadly force in public if they argue that they felt they were in imminent danger. It’s no coincidence that his new guns-in-schools bill is similar. Baxley’s law & new school proposal is really a shoot first law that encourages escalations in violence. Baxley is always reluctant to have a gun control fight, or enact any gun control legislation at all.

    Republican Senator Baxley, a major gun-rights backer and recipient of substantial gun lobby donations, says that gun-control proposals won’t gain much traction in the Republican controlled Florida Legislature. “I don’t see any interest here on that,” Mr. Baxley recently stated. “We’re pretty comfortable that freedom works.” In another outburst of triviality, Mr. Baxley unabashedly compared gun restrictions to imposing limits on forks and spoons to reduce obesity.

    Although Mr. Baxley said his new school bill would deter shootings, the bill is just another effort to chip away at prohibitions on guns in schools. He is using a typical bait & switch argument that deflects attention from many other more dangerous gun issues, like making sure powerful assault weapons and hundreds of rounds of high-velocity ammunition cannot be bought by teenagers. Until we can remove/vote out of office legislators such as Baxley who are beholden to the weapons industry, effective gun control in Florida will not succeed.

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