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Florida Senate Approves Gun Control Package


The Florida Legislature is advancing gun control legislation. This after pressure from students survivors of the high school shooting in Parkland Florida when a bus full of those survivors came to the state Capitol last week. The young activists found the legislative process to be confusing and at times upsetting. Jessica Bakeman from member station WLRN spent some time with a student lobbyist and her mother.

JESSICA BAKEMAN, BYLINE: Elyse Claprood and her daughter Annabel, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sophomore, arrived at the Florida Capitol with a schedule, a map and a mission. The mother and daughter wanted state lawmakers to know Annie has a right to feel safe at school. Their first stop was the House Appropriations Committee.

CARLOS TRUJILLO: I think on behalf of the entire committee, our heartfelt condolences.

BAKEMAN: Carlos Trujillo is the chair. He's a Republican from Miami.

TRUJILLO: None of us could really imagine the amount of pain that you're going through.

BAKEMAN: The committee was taking up a comprehensive gun safety bill that's working its way through the legislature. The bill would add a three-day waiting period before someone could buy a gun and raise the minimum age for buying a gun from 18 to 21. The Parkland families like that. They don't like the part of the bill that would allow some teachers to carry guns. But they're willing to accept it in order to get the rest, especially because they don't think it'll ever happen in blue Broward County. The bill gives both the sheriff and the school board the power to block it. Annie gave her testimony on the bill.

ANNABEL CLAPROOD: Twelve days ago, 18 hours and 56 minutes ago, I was on the floor scared for my life because someone walked into my school with an automatic weapon. I was in the first classroom that the shooter approached. I saw everything.

BAKEMAN: Her mom followed her to the mic.

ELYSE CLAPROOD: I'm Elyse Claprood. I'm the mother of that brave child Annabel that just spoke to you. So I'm here today as a mommy.

BAKEMAN: And then Elyse's main message.

CLAPROOD: The adults failed the children. We have an opportunity to not fail them again.

BAKEMAN: The bill's sponsor is Representative Jose Oliva, another Miami Republican. Oliva proposed an amendment that took the Parkland parents by surprise. It would require sheriffs to develop training programs for teachers who want to carry guns. Oliva said the change would simply ensure sheriffs were ready to provide the firearms training if, at any point, school boards decide to opt in. But when the parents first heard this, they were confused and then angry because they worried it would make it more likely that guns would end up in their kids' classrooms. They said Oliva himself assured them during dinner just the night before that the bill would more or less stay the same.

CLAPROOD: They literally left that room and changed everything in the middle of the night.

BAKEMAN: Elyse said later in the day.

CLAPROOD: So we feel distrust, confused and terrified. We're entrusting the system to save our children, and they're playing games.

BAKEMAN: On Monday night, the Florida Senate passed the overall package, including a scaled-down version of the proposal to arm school staff. Under the new plan, most classroom teachers would not be allowed to have guns. The House will take up the bill as soon as today.

For NPR News, I'm Jessica Bakeman in Tallahassee.

(SOUNDBITE OF GLENN JONES' "GONE BEFORE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.