After over a week of mounting pressure from students in Florida and around the country, Gov. Rick Scott announced on Friday that he supports raising the minimum age to buy a gun in his state to 21 years old, breaking with the National Rifle Association.
“We will require all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21 or older,” Scott said in a news conference.
Scott, a Republican, said there would be exceptions to that rule for active duty and reserve members of the military and their spouses, law enforcement, and members of the National Guard. He also said he would push for a ban on bump stocks, ask for $500 million in funding for mental health and school safety programs, and would require at least one armed police officer for every 1,000 public school students in Florida, according to The New York Times.
The governor also broke from President Trump, who this week proposed offering teachers bonus pay if they undergo training to carry guns at school. This is a colossally stupid idea, one that teachers, their unions, and public health experts immediately decried as “crazy,” “the worst theory of action I’ve ever heard,” and a proposal that opens a whole Pandora’s box of other new issues.
“I disagree with arming teachers,” Scott said. “My focus is on bringing in law enforcement. I think you need to have individuals who are trained, well trained.”
While Scott’s announcement marks a significant departure for his office and for the state of Florida—an NRA stronghold that hasn’t seen even a symbolic action to further regulate firearms in decades—it fell short of what students, including survivors of the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead, were demanding when they walked out of class and lobbied lawmakers at the state Capitol. And the push to bring more law enforcement into schools is a dangerous one that will likely result in the further criminalization of students of color.
Still, Scott’s move to actually enact some regulations is a sign of the strength of the student movement. It shows that putting pressure on a politician like Scott, who’s widely understood to be positioning himself for a U.S. Senate run, works. Even though it hasn’t resulted in real change just yet, it’s time to keep the momentum rolling in pushing for a total ban on assault rifles and laws disarming domestic abusers. The gun lobby is often cast as an all-powerful, unbeatable foe, but it’s no match for the righteous anger of a new generation of pissed off activists who are done accepting the usual rhetorical synonyms for “no.”