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Florida Legislature's Vote May Be Opening Bid In Gun Law Debate


We are also following the gun debate, and a vote in Florida's legislature yesterday could hardly have been more dramatic. With students who survived a school shooting in the gallery, lawmakers voted whether to consider a bill to ban assault-style rifles. The majority voted no, but that may be only an opening bid in the gun law debate, which NPR's Greg Allen is following from Florida.

Hi there, Greg.


INSKEEP: So Florida's governor, Rick Scott, says everything is on the table when it comes to gun legislation, and this is a Republican governor saying that. What's it mean?

ALLEN: Well, you know, I don't think we should expect that you're going to see an assault - a ban on high-powered rifles like that was voted on in the House of state. That would be - some states have passed that. That doesn't seem likely here in Florida. It's a state that's always supported gun rights and expanded them in many cases. But they are talking now about - seriously about things like a three-day waiting period for gun sales, requiring someone to be at least 21 years old before buying a gun, making it easier for law enforcement officers to take guns away from people who are seen to be a threat to themselves and others. Right now, that's very difficult here in the state, and police say they'd like to change that. So it's laws like that that would kind of maybe make students, people feel safer without actually addressing the heart of the issue on gun control.

INSKEEP: We had a Democratic lawmaker, a state lawmaker from Florida on the program earlier today who was also talking about expanding a law that makes it possible to detain someone who is considered a threat. They can be detained for three days.

ALLEN: Right. Well, right now, we have this - they call it the Baker Act here in Florida, where if someone is seen to have mental issues and they're a threat to themselves or others, they can be detained for up to three days. But the police say they can't take the guns away from them. And so someone gets out, they go back home, and they have their gun available. And lawmakers are very leery about that. That's taking someone's gun away is considered - you know, that sounds like that could be infringing on their constitutional rights. So it has to be temporary, the governor was clear to say yesterday. But that's something they are looking at, and that is - that's a change here. It might not seem like a lot to people elsewhere, but here in Florida, that's something significant.

INSKEEP: Well, that is the next question that I have, Greg Allen, because you're talking about working around the edges of gun control. And I don't mean to diminish what's being proposed, but simply to say, it's an effort to contain the problem of guns without banning any kinds of weapons particularly. And that raises a question about the students who were in the gallery yesterday, who will be meeting with lawmakers today. Do you have a sense that students and gun activists generally are going to be satisfied with this level of action from Republicans in Florida and elsewhere?

ALLEN: It'll be interesting to see because certainly, gun activists in Florida will be happy to see this change. But as you say, it's not that big of a deal compared to what some people elsewhere - national gun control people - would like. The students, when I talked to them, are a little bit vague. Some of them are - clearly want an assault weapons ban. Others are saying, I just want them to make me feel safe in school, so whatever they can do to change things is good. So we'll see how it works out here.

INSKEEP: Greg, thanks very much.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Greg Allen reporting today from Florida, where the gun debate is central to the public discussion. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.