In the wake of the deadly mass shooting at a high school in Parkland last month, the Florida Senate passed a bill on Monday that would create new restrictions on gun sales, and also allow some teachers to carry guns into schools.
The Senate narrowly approved the bill 20-18 after legislators debated the heated topic during an emotional three hours, as both Democrats and Republicans said there were parts of the bill they didn’t agree with.
"Do I think this bill goes far enough? No! No, I don't!" Democratic Sen. Lauren Book said, describing what it was like to visit Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after 17 people were killed there on Valentine’s Day.
“I cannot live with a choice to put party politics above an opportunity to get something done that inches us closer to the place I believe we should be as a state," she said. "This is the first step in saying never again."
Republican Sen. Bill Galvano, a sponsor of the bill, said the bipartisan opposition to it means “we’ve gotten somewhere.”
“This bill will make a difference now,” Galvano said. “When it becomes law, things will start changing.”
Democrats didn't like the idea of letting teachers carry guns, even if the bill was amended to water down that proposed program. And many pro-gun rights Republicans didn't like the idea of raising the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21 and to create a waiting period on sales of the weapons.
The bill was amended to limit which teachers could volunteer to attend law enforcement training classes and carry guns in schools.
Any teacher who does nothing but work in a classroom would not be eligible for the program, but teachers who perform other duties, such as serving as a coach, and other school employees could still participate.
Other exceptions would be made for teachers who are current or former law enforcement officers, members of the military or those who teach in a Junior Reserve Officer's Training Corps program.
The bill would also create new mental health programs for schools; improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state agencies; create a task force to look at mistakes made during mass shootings nationally and then make recommendations on how to continue to improve law; and establish an anonymous tip line where students and others can report threats to schools.
The bill now goes to the House, which has a similar bill still waiting for consideration by the full chamber. The annual 60-day session is scheduled to end Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.