Florida’s Republican governor just made a big break with the NRA

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida.
Reuters/Joshua Roberts

  • Florida’s Republican governor said on Friday that he would push lawmakers to raise the minimum age to buy a gun to 21 from 18.
  • Gov. Rick Scott also said he wanted to ban so-called bump stocks and would ask for $500 million in mental-health and school-safety initiatives.
  • Scott’s announcement comes more than a week after a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, left 17 people dead.
  • The measures Scott announced Friday fall short of what survivors of the shooting have advocated.

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida announced Friday that he would back raising the minimum age to purchase any type of gun to 21 from 18 in a major break with the National Rifle Association after last week’s shooting at a Florida high school.

Scott, a Republican, said he would work with state lawmakers in the coming weeks to draft legislation, adding that it would include some exceptions for members of the military and law-enforcement officers.

Under federal law, long guns like the semiautomatic AR-15-style assault rifle used by the Florida gunman can be bought from licensed dealers by people as young as 18, while the minimum age for handgun purchases is 21.

The NRA opposes the measure, arguing that it would restrict the Second Amendment rights of Americans who are otherwise considered adults. A spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, has also said such a law would be unlikely to prevent mass shootings.

“Raising the age is not going to solve psychosis,” Loesch told CNN on Friday.

Scott also said Friday that he supported a ban on “bump stock” devices, which accelerate semiautomatic rifles’ rate of gunfire and were used in last year’s shooting in Las Vegas.

He added that he would ask for $500 million in mental-health and school-safety initiatives, and he called for a law-enforcement officer in every public school and for mandatory “active-shooter training” for students and faculty.

“No one who has mental issues should have access to a gun,” Scott said at a press conference Friday.

He added: “I will not accept the old, tired political notion that we don’t have enough time to get anything done. Government does not have to be slow or lethargic, and when it comes to protecting our schools and our kids, we need to be swift and decisive.”

But Scott’s announcement falls short of what survivors of last week’s shooting have advocated. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School traveled to the state Capitol in Tallahassee this week to push lawmakers to ban the sale of all military-style guns like the AR-15.

“Banning specific weapons and punishing law-abiding citizens is not going to fix this,” Scott said. “What we have to do is we have to really focus on the problem. We’ve got to take all weapons away from people with mental illness.”

Scott also broke with President Donald Trump on his proposal to arm some schoolteachers with concealed firearms, an idea that has drawn overwhelming opposition from teachers and lawmakers from both parties.

“I disagree with arming teachers,” Scott said.

Reuters contributed reporting.